CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
April is widely regarded as "Earth Month" all over the globe. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton honors, protects, and conserves the Earth not only on this occasion, but every day of the year. Plenty of land and resources go into the conservation and care for wildlife aboard the installation.
The main force to combat land deterioration and climate issues is known as the Environmental Security Department. This department has a very diverse staff, varying from logistical and environmental planners to 10 biologists who manage the coastal, riparian, and upland species throughout the base, which also implements policies to mitigate the loss of habitats.
“It's the job and responsibility, which drives the organization to help manage the natural resources that Camp Pendleton has,” said Melissa Vogt, a conservation law enforcement officer with Environmental Security. “Camp Pendleton is a biodiversity hotspot. If it weren't for Camp Pendleton existing, all this coastline would be condos and hotels.”
“For any wildlife biologist that’s working with a threatened or endangered species, the ultimate goal is getting the animal off the list and making sure the species is doing well.” Nate Redetzke, Environmental Security wildlife biologist
The installation is home to 19 federally listed species and several state species that are either threatened or endangered. One of those species is the California Lease Turn, which is currently endangered. This bird lives on the coastline of California and is protected by the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan.
“The Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan, which is a combination of military priorities, natural resource management priorities, and outdoor recreation priorities, is a major document that outlines methods to help preserve this as desert habitat,” said Vogt.
“Every command who conducts training on or near protected land is given this document to ensure the viability of the base.”
A large quantity of Camp Pendleton’s budgeting is set aside for conservation due to the amount of protected land. If the installation isn’t protected properly, Camp Pendleton could potentially lose rights to continue training in certain areas.
“If an acre of land is disturbed, depending on the species, Camp Pendleton may be required to mitigate and set aside double or even ten times the amount of land somewhere else on the installation that can’t be used for training,” said Nate Redetzke, a wildlife biologist with the Uplands Management Section, Environmental Security. “Whenever the Marine Corps wants or is required to construct new courses, or move a course to another area, then they have to complete the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 process.”
Photo by Lance Cpl. Nataly Espitia
Lake O'Neill, located on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., is a popular destination for fishing and camping and is a home to a wide variety of wildlife, April 7, 2022, . As a result of Pendleton’s Environmental Security Department taking charge in protecting the environment and wildlife habitats, both the California gnatcatcher and kangaroo rat have been reduced from endangered to threatened species. Safeguarding endangered and threatened habitats also allows Camp Pendleton to maintain the same training environment and quality training opportunities for Marine Corps operational forces.
NEPA’s primary objectives are to ensure that agencies consider every aspect of a proposed project’s environmental impact, and to inform and involve the public of potential hazards and their alternatives.
Through the processes of the Environmental Security Department, land conservation, environmental protection, and NEPA, two species aboard Camp Pendleton have been downgraded from endangered to threatened: the California gnatcatcher and the kangaroo rat.
“For any wildlife biologist that’s working with a threatened or endangered species, the ultimate goal is getting the animal off the list and making sure the species is doing well,” said Redetzke. “Camp Pendleton is very special. It's the most undisturbed area between Los Angeles and San Diego. Nowhere else will there be expansive land like this where habitats can be restored in order to make it more beneficial for the native ecosystem.”
As a result of Environmental Security taking charge in protecting the environment, Camp Pendleton can maintain the same training environment and the same quality training opportunities it has for years to come. Camp Pendleton will always take measures to ensure it doesn't affect training or the lives of animals which are thriving in some of their only remaining habits.