Spotlight on Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML)

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Once a month, we are featuring a unit profile to support intra-campus collaboration and outreach. Our first spotlight features the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, known at CSU as CEMML. The Center is a service, education, and research unit in the Warner College of Natural Resources. In December, OSP met with CEMML Director Tony Chapa for a discussion that ranged from the Center’s origin to the ever-growing role CEMML plays in supporting its federal partners.

CEMML has supported military readiness and resource conservation on federal lands for nearly four decades, working primarily with the Department of Defense, as well as other federal departments and agencies such as the National Park Service. DoD projects with CEMML are often short-term and require quick turnaround, so CEMML employs a team of full-time, in-house principal investigators. These natural, physical, and social scientists are skilled in project management and implementation in the federal context.

The Department of Defense oversees more than 25 million acres of federal land. A surprising number of threatened and endangered species – more than 300 – make their homes on military lands. They’re also host to rare native ecosystems like old-growth forests and tall-grass prairies, as well as important archeological sites. CEMML helps conserve and sustain natural and cultural resources on these lands, which also serve as essential training grounds to ensure that military forces are effective in any type of terrain.

In 1985, Colorado State University saw a need to provide management services for the Army. Work began with the Army Corps of Engineers Research Lab in Illinois, and eventually expanded to installations and Department of Defense (DoD) headquarters, focusing on natural, cultural, and environmental program support. CEMML has grown exponentially in the last decade, Chapa said, due to increased support for Air Force environmental programs and Army land management initiatives.

CEMML’s work now has global reach, with a staff of 70 based in Fort Collins on the CSU campus and another 600 embedded across various DoD installations and other federal sites, including the Pentagon. Many former CEMML employees have gone on to hold federal positions, helping to shape environmental policy more broadly. Within OSP, CEMML is supported by Team 4 – Kellie Reifstenzel and Jenny Harding.

Last year, CEMML brought in more than $100 million dollars in awards, accounting for roughly one-fourth of CSU’s entire research budget. One of the Center’s recent projects involved surveying Arctic foxes in the Aleutian Islands in partnership with the CSU vet school. A robust fox population keeps bird populations in check, to minimize the risk of bird strikes damaging military aircraft at Eareckson Air Station. In France, CEMML worked with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, archeologists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and other European partners through the American Legion to recover and return the remains of a missing World War II pilot.

Another, much larger project has CEMML researchers developing installation-specific climate projections for the U.S. Air Force, which is incorporating climate change considerations into its natural resource management planning.

CEMML’s growth and success over nearly four decades can be attributed to its consistency and adaptability in support of the DoD mission and those of other federal agencies, and to the long-standing relationships of mutual understanding and trust that it has established.

We hope you enjoy learning more about other campus units as much as we do. OSP values our collaboration and connecting the different branches of our Sponsored Programs body of work. Please let us know how OSP can spotlight work going on in your unit by emailing

Blog post by Kathryn O’Hayre, Training & Information Coordinator, Office of Sponsored Programs. Many thanks to the CEMML Executive Committee, Tim Schommer, CEMML Communications Director, and Jodi Peterson, CEMML Chief Editor, for their input and partnership.