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INTEGRATING NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY TO THE MILITARY MISSION: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN RECOGNIZING MILITARY LANDS AS ALTERNATIVE BIO DIVERSITY SANCTUARIES IN ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0607-07]
It is uncommon among policy makers to consider the military and its operational areas in terms of biodiversity conservation, because of their association with the use of destructive weapons and large-scale manoeuvres. However, the study conducted at Tolay Military Training Center in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia shows that the military and its operational areas, especially training centers, demonstrate great potential for biodiversity conservation and natural resource management. This is because land managed by the military is usually protected from public access for security purposes. To explore whether environmental protection, natural resource management and biodiversity conservation are integrated into the role of the military, an exploratory and descriptive study was conducted at selected military sites. Data were collected through anthropological methods such as structured and unstructured questionnaires, interviews with military commanders and nearby civilian community leaders, and field observations. An important lesson of this research is that land administered by the military, especially large sites, provides a relative sanctuary for indigenous animal and plant species that are not found on other public land. This is because (1) military sites are usually protected from public access for security purposes and (2) inspired by the celebration of the 2nd Ethiopian millennium, the military undertakes planting, conservation and protection of biological diversity on its managed lands. The overall implication is that if this is recognised in policy and natural resource management is included into the military role national level, military sites can be alternative conservation areas and/or contribute to national conservation efforts. Despite these positives, however, military sites – like other public land – experience common environmental problems. These include the failure to incorporate the military into national environmental policy together with institutional deficiencies and increased human and livestock populations around military installations. Encroachment has contributed to deforestation, depletion of natural resources, fragmentation of training land, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss around the sites.