GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCT) – A federal initiative coming to 33 counties in Eastern North Carolina aims to get our many military bases working better together with surrounding land owners.
State and local leaders announced the creation of the North Carolina Sentinel Landscape. The federally funded program is voluntary and includes a dozen military installations across the East, bridging the gap between the military and surrounding land owners.
The goal is to protect military operations as well as farming and other activities happening outside the fence.
Certain types of development near military bases can disrupt vital training activities, but the program also looks to preserve natural resources like farm and forest lands nearby.
State Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler points out that it’s all about protecting the state’s top two industries.
“We are home to so many military installations, we are a huge agriculture state. Sentinel Landscapes actually marries resources to be able to protect our military bases and our farm land and forest land,” said Troxler.
Projects between the military and adjoining land owners are already on-going outside of the program. Sentinel Landscapes will provide further funding and collaboration for future needs.
“We want to make sure that we’re partnering with those landowners to be able to make sure that what they’re doing, the facilities and the structures that they’re putting up, are compatible with our ability to train and operate,” said Thomas Weidley, Commanding General at Camp Lejeune.
Encroachment around military bases has been a problem. One example is at Camp Lejeune. Loss of habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker has led the birds to call the training grounds of Camp Lejeune home, disrupting vital training exercises.
“We’ve got opportunities. I think we talked about the program to take red-cockaded woodpeckers, moving them out of our training areas and into other areas where they can flourish,” Weidley added.
But it’s not just the military that will benefit from the partnership. Herbert Page’s family farm butts up against Bogue Airfield in Carteret County.
“Bogue Field, which I am adjoined to, the military are very helpful with especially the deer and the coyotes,” Herbert Page, a Bogue farmer, commented.
He hopes the Sentinel Landscape program can help other farmers like himself, who face challenges being near a military operation.
Moving forward as part of the program, the military will identify issues and contact those surrounding land owners to work them out together.