Army Finds Way to Recover Golden-cheeked Warbler

A recently released report found the Fort Hood Recovery Credit System (RCS) to be an effective tool for meeting conservation goals for an endangered species, while increasing the ability of the U.S. Army to achieve its training mission.

The report, produced by the Robertson Consulting Group, provides strong evidence that a three-year pilot test of the Fort Hood RCS was successful in achieving its goals.

"This recovery credit system appeals to a broad range of private landowners as it pays them for actions designed to recover the Golden-cheeked Warbler," said Environmental Defense Fund Scientist David Wolfe, who chairs the RCS Science Committee that established the biological criteria for the RCS. "It truly is a market-based approach to endangered species conservation."

Despite being one of the Army’s most active training sites, Fort Hood has the largest known population of endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers. The Army’s stewardship resulted in more than 50,000 acres of occupied habitat on Fort Hood, nearly one-quarter of the base. But increased training pressure in recent years forced the Army to seek a means of accommodating its expanding training mission, while continuing its contribution to warbler recovery. That's when a problem-solving coalition, including EDF and an array of other state, federal and non-governmental partners, partnered to create the Fort Hood RCS.

How does RCS work? In essence, the federal agency, in this case the Army through Fort Hood, invests funds in conservation actions designed to benefit the Golden-cheeked Warbler on private lands. In return, Fort Hood receives credits that it uses as needed to offset actions on the base that may adversely affect the warbler and its habitat. The system is designed to ensure steadily increasing net benefits to the warbler through an annual set-aside of 10 percent of the available credits, and through habitat measurement criteria, which ensure that more acreage of habitat is conserved and appropriately managed on private lands than is adversely affected on Fort Hood.

Further evidence of the potential conservation value of the RCS concept is provided by the recent creation of the Utah Prairie Dog Habitat Credits Exchange, which borrowed heavily from the Fort Hood example, and is now undergoing pilot testing.

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