There's a fascinating article in this week's issue of Nature (reg. req'd.) on how parcels of land used for active U.S. military training in Germany contain more biodiversity and higher populations of endangered species than that nation's "pristine" national parks.
The logic is simple, really - some species, both plants and animals, require disruption in order to flourish. Some plant seeds won't open until they've been singed by a forest fire, and some animal species can't compete in a mature habitat where all the existing niches are filled by comfortable incumbents. Shaking up the habitat with a few live-fire artillery exercizes or mock tank battles seems to improve the overall habitat diversity and make places for species that wouldn't be able to find space in a national park where no one ever hunts, fells trees or paves a road.
Witness the reflection of one scientist, ecologist Steven Warren of Colorado State University in Fort Collins:
"Some people are very anti-military," Warren says. "They assume that there's nothing the military can do that will be beneficial, particularly with relation to ecology." Warren, who doesn't work for the army, used to assume the same himself. "Twenty years ago I looked at military activities as an ecologist and thought 'they need me'. But I guess that's not really so."
So if you love Mother Earth, forget the trees - hug a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.