FORT RILEY, Kan. (Army News Service, Nov. 14, 2006) - An agreement to conserve and protect land near military bases was signed by the top environmental officials of the Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Agriculture Nov. 8 in a ceremony on Fort Riley, Kan.

The agreement, making USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service a partner in DoD's Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative range sustainability program, was signed by Alex Beehler, assistant deputy under secretary of defense for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health and Merlyn Carlson, under secretary of agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment .

The ceremony also marked the establishment of the Army's first buffer under this agreement. Landowner Jane Laman sold an easement to the Kansas Land Trust to preserve 269 acres adjacent to Fort Riley. Those acres will count toward the Army Compatible Use Buffer program.

The national partnership will complement mission-specific requirements of both agencies.

"The agreement reflects the military's increasing interest in working with other partners to promote better regional conservation planning in areas across the country," he said.

Carlson called the partnership "good news for the environment," and said the national partnership will allow the Defense Department to better harness various programs designed to assist private landowners and managers on conservation concerns, on behalf of military conservation buffer efforts across the country

Using NRCS support for the first time, the Kansas Land Trust agreement will help prevent encroachment of urban development on lands surrounding Fort Riley.

"This partnership will allow us to continue to train the way our country expects us to," said Maj. Gen. Carter Ham, Fort Riley commanding general. "The conservation easement today is to prevent the encroachment of urban development on lands surrounding Fort Riley."

"This ensures that this land will not be developed," Carlson added.

The ACUB program promotes sustainability at Army installations. The buffer zones are intended to conserve natural resources and limit incompatible development around military installations to ensure the installations' mission to train Soldiers to fight and win the nation's wars will be able to continue into the future.

Under ACUB, installations work with government and private organizations to find owners willing to sell their land or, more often, easements - giving up the right to do some things with their property. The Army provides some of the funding but the deed or easement belongs to the partner. Sixteen installations now have ACUBS approved, covering approximately 56,000 acres of land.

The Kansas Land Trust negotiated the easement with Laman and is responsible to ensure the land is preserved in perpetuity.