May 15, 2017|By Colonel Tyler B. Smith, Utah Army National Guard

How does protecting land near Camp Williams benefit both the installation and the broader community? 

Colonel Smith: Like many military installations, Camp Williams was originally established in a location far from population centers. As Utah’s population continues to boom, urban sprawl now abuts the borders of Camp Williams. This impacts our ability to train, and also poses some risk to surrounding communities and wildlife. Commanders frequently are required to choose between being sensitive to the quality of life of the communities surrounding Camp Williams and meeting training and testing requirements. 

5 15 IMG 4911Camp Williams was originally surrounded by miles of open space, but now development now abuts its borders. Photo by Whitney Flanagan. 

We’re working to strike a balance, and protecting land around Camp Williams will help achieve that. Establishing buffer areas around Army installations limits the effects of encroachment, maximizes land use inside the installation that can be used to support its mission, and at the same time improves the quality of life of the surrounding communities. Protecting the viability of current and future training operations, while simultaneously guiding community growth, sustains the environmental and economic health of the region and protects public health and safety.  

When people think of the Department of Defense, conservation probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Can you tell us more about some of their recent conservation initiatives?  

The Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) and the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) programs provide funding that allows us to reduce incompatible development such as high density single and multifamily homes near bases through the preservation of working and natural lands. In a very budget constrained environment, it’s critical for the military to maintain readiness, and these programs allow us to continue training at existing areas and ensure protection of the land we need to prevent encroaching development.

5 15 ACUB SummaryMap2016 1Camp Williams ACUB project. 

Why are partnerships so important to making this work a success? 

Through ACUB, the Utah National Guard reaches out to partners, like The Conservation Fund, to identify mutual objectives of land conservation and to manage development of critical open areas. The U.S. Army can contribute funds to the partner’s purchase of easements or properties from willing landowners. For example, The Conservation Fund just completed its first project in partnership with Camp Williams by using REPI funds to purchase a conservation easement on agricultural lands that contain extensive wildlife habitat for mule deer, ensuring the preservation of the natural space and agricultural uses and precluding development that would threaten the mission of Camp Williams.

Herriman City, which abuts the north border of Camp Williams, has a strategic interest in preserving opens spaces along the ridges to their south. Through the ACUB program, Herriman City has received $7,253,300—from that amount $1M is from REPI—to assist in the purchase of land in areas where compatibility with military training is critical. The city plans to turn the areas into recreational trails that will serve the community and provide additional fire breaks. Because there is tremendous enthusiasm to have a say in the future of the West Traverse landscape, the West Traverse Community Partnership was formed to raise awareness and promote the conservation effort.

What are some things you learned during the process of protecting the first parcels around Camp Williams?

The pace in which development is occurring around Camp Williams makes it extremely challenging to accomplish our goal to protect this buffer land. The clock is ticking fast to protect these properties, and unfortunately the wheels of bureaucracy move slowly. In some cases we simply cannot receive sufficient federal ACUB/REPI funds in time to help partners and landowners meet their desired timeline, so bridge funds are critical. 

We have also learned that the landowners with property around Camp Williams are extremely supportive and open to participating in the voluntary preservation of scenic, open spaces critical to wildlife populations, agriculture, and military readiness while enhancing recreational opportunities and quality of life initiatives.

5 15 AGCW 05The open space surrounding Camp Williams is beautiful, and essential for maintaining quality of life for the surrounding community both now and in the future. Photo provided by Camp Williams.

5 15 mule deer c Bob ThomasCamp Wiliams and its surrounding area are prime habitat for mule deer and other species. Photo by Bob Thomas.

What do think others should learn from and know about this effort? 

Camp Williams is an extremely active installation, which provides small arms, artillery and demolition ranges, terrain and facilities for the Soldiers of the Utah Army National Guards as well as all branches of the military. People should know that the Utah National Guard continues to provide forces for operations abroad. Deployments are ongoing—making Camp Williams critical, not only to Utah National Guard Soldiers, but for military members and units throughout the nation. 

This is especially true because Camp Williams’ unique terrain provides training conditions that closely simulate those found in many foreign areas where our nation’s military is currently engaged. For this reason, Camp Williams has become the training center of choice for many deploying military units and federal agencies to conduct pre-deployment training. I can say that I personally attribute my unit’s safe return from Afghanistan to the diverse training received at Camp Williams. Protecting these lands is critical.

5 15 P3206011
5 15 18507181454 65d5b63944 zCamp Williams’ unique terrain provides training conditions that closely simulate those found in many foreign areas where our nation’s military is currently engaged. Photos provided by Camp Williams.

Would you say you are redefining conservation? How so?

We are trying to create win-win scenarios for the land and for people, because as Citizen Soldiers, National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, we reside in the communities we serve. We want to preserve our ability to train at these locations, and ensure that we preserve open spaces and natural habitats so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful landscapes we adore and value in Utah. 

Take A Ride In A Blackhawk: Conserving Critical Buffer Land At Camp Williams, UT

What happened on May 11, 2017? 

The West Traverse Community Partnership hosted a “kick off” breakfast at Camp Williams. A by invitation event, attendees were selected who have an interest in the West Traverse landscape. Attendees included state legislators, local civic and business leaders, property owners, and other identified stakeholders. A complimentary breakfast was served in one of the historical buildings on Camp Williams. A video presentation introduced the West Traverse Community Partnership’s mission and objectives.  Several keynote speakers addressed the audience, including the Adjutant General of Utah, Mayor of Herriman City, ACUB Program Director, myself, and others.

Click here to learn more about our role in this project.