Endangered Species Coalition Board Chairman: Restrict Military Training from Areas with Endangered Species -- A Marine general turned environmentalist conceded during a congressional briefing Wednesday that complying with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on military bases does have a “cost” and does not enhance troop training – but said it was still “worth it.” Major Gen. Michael Lehnert (Ret.), who is now the chairman of the Endangered Species Coalition’s advisory board, was asked to tell the briefing how protecting habitats can help with training troops. “Let me be very clear,” Lehnert replied. “Complying with the Endangered Species Act adds a level of complexity into a training area on the base.” “I’m not going to go so far as to say it enhances military readiness,” he continued. “I don’t want to insult anybody’s intelligence that way.” Lehnert then said that although military base operation may face restrictions in areas that are designated as breeding grounds for endangered species, military operations are often restricted by rules of engagement issues. He cited restrictions on fighting in civilian areas, for example, or fighting in a minefield. “So if you have any amount of wit or vision you can incorporate those reasonable restrictions placed by our need to comply with the Endangered Species Act and actually incorporate it into, you know, your exercise in such a fashion that you don’t have a negative impact upon the species that we … have been required to protect,” he said. “At the same time, compliance does come at a cost,” Lehnert said. “We acknowledge that. “And it adds a level of complexity to the issue. There is no such thing as a free lunch. But I think it’s worth it.” The event was hosted by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and organized by Lehnert’s organization and the Defenders of Wildlife. It was held in conjunction with the release of President Obama’s 2017 budget request, which includes about $250 million for the endangered species program – up from about $234 million in 2016. The Center for Biological Diversity slammed the funding request, saying in a statement that it “continues a trend of flat or declining funding for the protection and recovery of endangered species.” “The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service’s overall budget request for the endangered species program increased slightly to $251 million from $234 million, but still represents less than 15 percent of the $2.2 billion in annual subsidies the federal government gives to oil and gas companies to extract fossil fuels on public lands,” the group said. “We’re deeply disappointed that once again the Obama administration has failed to request sufficient funds to ensure the survival and recovery of the nation’s plants and animals that are on the brink of extinction,” said Brett Hartl, the center’s endangered species policy director. “The Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of more than 99 percent of the species under its protection and put hundreds on the road to recovery, but much more money is needed to fully implement the law and ensure recovery for the more than 1,500 threatened and endangered species in the U.S.,” he added.