truck convoy on military base

Tracking and integrating valuation of ecosystem services for military base land-use and land-management decisions


The United States has over 18 million hectares of dedicated military land, but the environmental benefits produced by this land are severely understudied. Presently, the US Department of Defense (DoD) lacks a comprehensive, systematic method for documenting the value of ecosystem services and needs a better understanding of how they may be changed or redistributed as a consequence of land management interventions. Consequently, the contribution of military bases to neighboring communities is very likely undervalued, and management of DoD’s significant natural resources may be suboptimal. Development of a platform to evaluate and track ecosystem service value on military bases could help to demonstrate the potential returns that military lands produce for surrounding communities. 

Alongside our partners at Duke University, we are facilitating the development of a generalizable, user-friendly, and state-of-the-art software modeling tool to value, enhance, and document the ecosystem service delivery of military lands. 


Our work supports the portion of the project focused on providing economic valuation of benefit relevant indicators, or BRIs. The methods involve direct valuation methods, especially for marketed goods (e.g., timber), and benefits transfer, especially for non-market goods (e.g., wildlife habitat). Our evaluation of ecosystem services include: wildfire risk and damage, respiratory health, timber harvest, energy production, recreation, carbon storage, endangered species protection, hunted/harvested species, flood damage, shoreline erosion, potable water quality, and agricultural/industry water use. In addition to benefit-cost calculations, we explore the use of other approaches such as multi-attribute tradeoff weighting, risk-adjusted utility measures, and acceptability (threshold) criteria.

Military base site visits

The research team selected five military installations to develop the model. These installations are located across the U.S. to incorporate a variety of ecosystems. They are Fort Belvoir in Virginia, Fort Cavazos in Texas, Fort Custer in Michigan, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The emLab researchers had the opportunity to visit the west coast installations, while our collaborators visited the remaining sites.

In June 2023, emLab researchers visited Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) to learn about the base’s active management of natural resources. VSFB is located along central California’s rugged coast and provides habitat for several threatened and endangered species, such as the western snowy plover. Ecosystem management at VSFB both enhances the environmental quality and habitat provision of the area and maintains a protected space for fulfilling one of the VSFB core missions: launching rockets and satellites into polar orbit.

Andrew, Laurel, and Tracey with Colonel Park at Joint Base Lewis McCord

Then in October 2023, emLab researchers traveled north to visit Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Outside of Tacoma, WA, JBLM is a large, complex military operation led by the garrison commander, Col. Kent Park (pictured on the left). The base spans 90,000 acres and provides training grounds for around 34,000 soldiers. While western Washington is known for conifer forests, JBLM has some of the best quality and last remaining native prairies in the state. Training lands and rare prairie habitat can coexist and in fact support one another. The small fires and active use from training help crowd out competing tree species and provide prairie habitat for rare and endangered species. Along with proactive ecosystem management and thoughtful coordination between environmental and training specialists, JBLM offers premier conservation and military readiness opportunities.  


This project is a collaboration led by Dr. Mark Borsuk at Duke University and is funded by the US Department of Defense.