Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans: Roadmaps to Conservation for Today's Military Installations

Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans: Roadmaps to Conservation for Today's Military Installations

In 1960, Congress established the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a- 670o) to ensure that natural resources on military bases are conserved and protected. These bases and installations encompass more than 11.4 million acres nationally and 26.1 million acres globally, making the DoD one of our nation’s largest federal landowners. In many cases, the lands that bases and installations occupy are protected from human access and impact. And while they can be impacted significantly by training activities that support the military mission, they often contain some of our nation’s most significant natural resources including large, unbroken expanses of forests, timberlands, grasslands, and marshes. They are also home to hundreds of sensitive fish and wildlife species and their habitats.

Agency Acres owned/managed in the U.S.
Bureau of Land Management 248.3 million
U.S. Forest Service 192.9 million
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 89.1 million
U.S. Park Service 79.8 million
Department of Defense 11.4 million*

*26.1 million acres owned or managed worldwide.

The military does little without a plan, and in 1997, Congress amended the Sikes Act, to require the development and implementation of Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs) on all domestic military bases and installations. The Sikes Act specified 10 required elements be addressed in all INRMPs. These include:

  1. Fish and wildlife management, land management, forest management, and fish- and wildlife-oriented recreation
  2. Fish and wildlife habitat enhancement or modifications
  3. Wetland protection, enhancement, and restoration, where necessary, for support of fish, wildlife, or plants
  4. Integration of, and consistency among, the various activities conducted under the plan
  5. Establishment of specific natural resource management goals and objectives and time frames for proposed action
  6. Sustainable use by the public of natural resources to the extent that the use is not inconsistent with the needs of fish and wildlife resources
  7. Public access to the military installation subject to requirements necessary to ensure safety and military security
  8. Enforcement of applicable natural resource laws (including regulations)
  9. No net loss in the capability of military installation lands to support the military mission of the installation
  10. Such other activities as the Secretary of the military department determines appropriate
Map of Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center - Hopkinsville, KY

Figure 1. Water resources on Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center - Hopkinsville, KY

Properly designed INRMPs integrate military mission requirements, environmental plans, cultural resource plans, and outdoor recreation to ensure successes in both military training and natural resource conservation are achieved. They provide a comprehensive approach to natural resources management on installations by taking a holistic approach on a landscape level and driving sustainable natural resources management activities on a day-to-day basis.

A basic INRMP for an installation typically includes:

  • A description of the installation, its history, and its current mission;
  • Management goals and associated timeframes;
  • Projects to be implemented and estimated costs;
  • A discussion of how the military mission and training requirements are supported while protecting the environment;
  • Natural resources’ biological needs and legal requirements;
  • The role of the installation’s natural resources in the context of the surrounding ecosystem (e.g. Figure 1);
  • Input from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), state fish and wildlife agency, and the general public.

Examples of projects that are implemented through an INRMP may include natural resource assessments, monitoring programs, forestry and rangeland management, noxious and invasive weed control, native habitat restoration, threatened and endangered species management, wildlife education, and recreational hunting and fishing programs.

Preparing the INRMP

Trained natural resources professionals and organizations, including the Wildlife Management Institute, are often contracted to prepare INRMPs for DoD, the National Guard Bureau (NGB), and state National Guard installations. Organizations responsible for developing, revising, or updating INRMPs work with installation managers to involve stakeholders with a vested interest in managing the installation’s natural resources. These stakeholders may include military operations managers, environmental managers, master planning staff, federal and state agencies, agricultural lessees, recreational groups, environmental and conservation groups, cultural resource managers, installation pest management professionals, and neighboring land owners.

7 Key Focus Areas of INRMP Implementation
INRMP Implementation
Listed Species and Critical Habitat
Sikes Act Cooperation
Recreational Use and Access
Natural Resources Management
Natural Resources Program Support of the Installation Mission
Team Adequacy between DoD, the USFWS, and the state fish and wildlife agency


After development of the initial INRMP, each branch of military service tracks progress on the implementation of the INRMP and reports its findings to the Secretary of Defense, who makes an annual report to Congress on the status, progress, and expenditures associated with seven key focus areas of INRMP implementation. The Secretary of the Interior also reports the amounts expended by the USFWS and state fish and game agencies on INRMP-related activities each year.

Aerial view of Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center - Hopkinsville, KY

INRMP Revisions & Updates

All INRMPs must be kept current, undergoing an internal review annually, which includes participation by the USFWS and state fish and wildlife agency. They are also required to be updated or revised as necessary. In addition to DoD’s annual review policy, the Sikes Act requires that USFWS and state formally review INRMPs for operation and effect at least every five years.

An effective INRMP planning process integrates all traditional elements of natural resources management, which also incorporates military mission requirements, installation master planning, environmental planning, and outdoor recreation. This planning process involves all appropriate stakeholders, thereby providing for more efficient and effective management of natural resources on a landscape-scale basis, all while ensuring that military readiness is sustained. If you are interested in discussing how the Wildlife Management Institute can help with the development of a new INRMP or with the revision or update of an existing INRMP, please contact Jon Gassett or Ricky French.


Photo Credit
Kentucky National Guard, Flickr
June 15, 2019