Commanders of military installations are responsible for two seemingly contradictory missions -- effective and efficient training, testing, and logistical operations and stewardship of the natural and cultural resources on the installation. Better informed decision making about military land use can optimize the fulfillment of both missions. Information needed to support these decisions requires spatially-explicit ecological models that include the spatial distribution of habitat characteristics, biological population parameters, disturbance characteristics, geophysical changes, and landscape ecology phenomena.

This project focused on developing an integrated approach to land use decision making. The incorporation of proven ecological models, their input assumptions, assessment endpoints, and user interfaces is a useful application for Department of Defense (DoD) land managers.

Technical Approach

Ecological models were utilized to assess the impact of DoD activities on natural resources. Focus centered on the loss and alteration of habitat. Land use activities were characterized quantitatively, and a matrix of characteristics to describe land use activities on DoD lands was developed. Parameters of this matrix included magnitude, frequency, areal extent, spatial distribution, and effects on habitat quality. A spatially-explicit, land-cover change model also was developed to simulate potential change in or loss of individual cover types in response to land use activities.


This project completed a suite of ecological models that together can predict where certain natural resources occur and identifies selected features that are at risk under particular land use scenarios. At Fort McCoy, WI, scientists implemented a land use matrix model for the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly (KBB). The model provided a scientifically valid basis for making decisions about the intensity, timing, and location of military use of KBB sites. At Fort Knox, KY, and Fort Riley, KS, a demographic model of territorial migrant birds was developed and applied to Henslow’s sparrow. This project was completed in FY 1998.


This research provided a quantitative method for assessing plans to maintain and conserve the natural resources. The integration of ecological models into spatial contexts for land management resulted in a clearer priority for ecological information, improved decision making, and the need for fewer specialized management programs in the future. This research directly applies to 1) planning for facility closures and realignment, 2) evaluating natural resource management plans, 3) supporting compliance with environmental laws, and 4) developing integrated risk assessments that address cumulative effects.