I consider militarized landscapes to be places that have been substantially impacted by military or defense activities–training lands, bases, defense installations, proving grounds, and security areas or borderlands fortified or enforced by military power. Groundwater or soils contaminated by military activities fall within this definition too. Broad shifts in the geographies of national defense and geopolitics have led to a variety of transitioning uses for militarized landscapes. Many of these landscapes have been dedicated to conservation purposes. While these changes often present legitimate gains for environmental protection and ecological restoration, they also carry serious risks–from the physical hazards of chemicals or ordnance that linger, and by erasing important land use histories and the cultural impacts of war and militarization. The position I take is geographical. I argue that it is both possible and critically important to attend to cultural and ecological interests in ways that promote new understandings about militarized landscapes. By taking a closer look at military-to-wildlife transitions in more detail, I consider how and why these dramatic changes occur, and what to make of the new mix of militarization, conservation, and ecological restoration these places present.
Keywords: demilitarized zones, DMZ, nature, conservation, geography, geopolitics, restoration, military-to-wildlife, M2W