PEER (Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is herewith inducted into the
National Military Fish and Wildlife Association’s Hall of Fame, in recognition of their continuing support of NMFWA and the natural resources professionals who work on Department of Defense lands, waters, and airspace. To understand the impact of PEER to our organization, we must first look at the organization and mission statement of PEER.
Public employees are a unique force working for environmental enforcement. In the ever- changing tide of political leadership, these front-line employees stand as defenders of the public interest within their agencies and as the first line of defense against the exploitation and pollution of our environment. Their unmatched technical knowledge, long-term service and proven experiences make these professionals a credible voice for meaningful reform.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) works nation-wide with government scientists, land managers, environmental law enforcement agents, field specialists and other resource professionals committed to responsible management of America’s public resources. Our constituency represents one of the most crucial and viable untapped resources in the conservation movement. PEER supports those who are courageous and idealistic enough to seek a higher standard of environmental ethics and scientific integrity within their agency.
The PEER mission statement reads as follows: PEER protects public employees who protect our environment. We are a service organization for local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement officers, scientists, land managers, and other professionals dedicated to upholding environmental laws and values. Through PEER, public servants can choose to work as “anonymous activists” so that public agencies must confront the message, rather than the messenger.
Most of the support that PEER has provided to DoD employees has remained “behind the scenes” in order to protect individual employees from adverse agency action, unintentional or otherwise. However, a couple of specific examples are cited here as examples of many times where PEER has taken the lead to assist NMFWA and our members.
When Mark Hagan and Wanda Deal of Edwards Air Force Base were re-assigned from their duties as natural resources managers for the installation, the employees and NMFWA were beginning the process of hiring lawyers to challenge this decision in court, since it appeared to be a clear violation of the Sikes Act. Mark Hagan took out a second mortgage on his home to initially engage an attorney to fight the issue. NMFWA debated at length whether or not to even get involved, but did begin to raise funds to support the issue. Once PEER became engaged in the issue, there were no more costs to the employees or to NMFWA.
Eventually, the employees were able to settle their case with the US Air Force, but not before several attempts to dismiss the case were rejected by the courts. In that process, a legal decision was reached that the Sikes Act and specifically the provisions regarding the prohibition on using non-governmental natural resources personnel to implement Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans on installations was also enforceable. The impact of this decision cannot be overstated. Without the ability to force compliance with the Sikes Act, the legal justification for natural resources management on military lands would have disappeared and conservation programs on installations would have become optional, unnecessary expenses.
About five years later, PEER came to the rescue again, when Department of Army decided to include all environmental functions at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in a Commercial Activities Review, with the intention of replacing government employees with contractor employees. The study ran for years, while PEER attorneys built their case. On the day that contractor bids were be opened and compared with the government’s internal cost estimate, PEER had its package ready to file with the courts. At the last minute, the Commanding General of WSMR cancelled the competition and the lawsuit was never filed. The employees who would have been the plaintiffs were spared the reactions that release of their names would have caused.
Over the past 25 plus years, PEER has supported many DoD employees in ways that will never be made public knowledge. Most NMFWA members will never need to avail themselves of the services that PEER offers, but it is reassuring to all of us that PEER is there, ready to help. It is for these reasons that NMFWA is proud to induct PEER as an organization into our Hall of Fame.