Air Force, Navy participate during first ever U.S. held International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress

  • Published
  • By Petty Officer 2nd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak
  • Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii
HONOLULU - Approximately 8,000 attendees from 170 countries joined the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu Sept. 1-10.

The IUCN is a membership union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organizations. It provides public, private and non-government organizations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together. The conference gathers every four years, and took place in the U.S. for the first time in its 84-year history.

“…Today, the United States is proud to host the IUCN Congress for the first time,” said President Barack Obama in his remarks to leaders from the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN WCC during his visit to Hawaii. “…When it comes to climate change, there is a dire possibility of us getting off course, and we can’t allow that to happen. That’s why our united efforts are so important.”

At the urging of senior DoD leadership for greater participation in the IUCN Congress, the Air Force proposed a panel, and working together with the Army and Navy, demonstrated how DoD military missions are very compatible with protecting natural infrastructure and taking an active role in significant conservation initiatives - a role that was commended.

"As the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I proudly say that the Defense Department is one of our best conservation partners," said Director Daniel Ashe. "The Defense Department has so much it can offer us...and is a tremendous partner in conservation, including places like Guam where we're working with the Navy and Air Force to conserve native birds and fight invasive species."

During an Air Force presentation, Miranda Ballentine, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, showcased not only the scope of her service's efforts, but highlighted the need for DoD to work together to achieve greater goals.

"Fundamentally, we care about conservation on military bases because of natural infrastructure, because it provides services back to us all...including fresh water and clean air," said Secretary Ballentine. "It is because of our conservation efforts that we have such a high density of threatened and endangered species on our bases. We've essentially built perfect islands of habitat within the fence line, protected from development outside of it. We now need to leverage all of DoD to help protect land off the base [beyond these islands]."

Working with many partners and supporters, the IUCN implements a large and diverse portfolio of conservation projects worldwide, with the U.S. Navy being one those partners and supporters present during the convention this year.

“An environmental event of this scale in Hawaii presents a great opportunity to bring focus to the Navy’s conservation efforts,” said Cory Scott, an environmental planner at U.S. Pacific Fleet and representative for the Navy information booth at the convention.

From the information displayed at the Navy’s information booth, attendees were able to find out how the Navy uses proactive measures before, during and after training, and how testing is implemented to avoid impacts on marine species.

Information was also available to inform patrons on how the Navy invests in shipboard technologies that improve environmental compliance and protects marine life. An example of this can be seen in the use of new specialized shipboard processors, which can reduce plastic waste volume by 70 percent, protecting marine life from harmful marine debris. These new Navy shipboard compactors are currently being implemented around the fleet.

Scott said the Navy does not only lead in marine mammal research, but also makes that information accessible to the public and its partner institutions worldwide.

“The U.S. Navy’s commitment as ‘stewards of the sea’ is first to defend freedom, and secondly, to protect the environment,” said David Hodge, a public affairs officer in charge of community relations at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Another one of the Navy’s key focus during the convention was emphasizing the reduction of pollution by way of its “Great Green Fleet” initiative. The Navy’s Great Green Fleet initiative reinforces and sustains a culture of valuing energy as a strategic resource in all routine and underway operations worldwide.

According to Hodge, the Navy actively works to pursue cost-competitive biofuel blends that can be used as a replacement for conventional petroleum.

“I am amazed by the Navy’s Great Green Fleet initiative,” said Hodge. “Biofuels used by the Navy not only save a lot of taxpayer dollars, but more importantly, they greatly reduce pollution.”

During the convention, Rear Adm. John W. Korka, commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific, stressed the Navy’s commitment to protecting the environment in a Department of Defense conservation panel.

“Our mission is pretty clear: to preserve the freedom of the United States, but we also have a responsibility to our environment,” said Korka.

During his visit to Hawaii, President Obama also signed a proclamation several days prior to the IUCN WCC, expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, an act that was applauded by U.S. Senator for Hawaii Brian Schatz during his IUCN WCC opening ceremony speech.

In his remarks Senator Schatz added that he felt hopeful about conservation efforts knowing that all of the partner-nations participating in the IUCN convention have the same common goal in mind, “to protect the only planet that we share.”