Carbon, Conservation, and Community – Protecting Military Readiness and Natural Resources While Promoting Economic Development in Rural Communities
Joe Knott is being honored as a Veteran Advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security Champion of Change.
I grew up in Cincinnati, OH, as the oldest of five children. At seventeen I made the choice to serve my country, joining the Ohio National Guard and shipping off to basic training after graduating from high school early. During my 33 years in uniform I came to realize the full meaning of service to one’s country and learned to always be thankful and “give back” for the privilege of living in the greatest country in the world. Early in my military career I volunteered for multiple deployments to Central America, living in the mountains of Honduras while building roads and schools for those less fortunate. After returning to the U.S., I became an officer and full-time soldier, and for the next three decades had the privilege to work with uniformed and civilian professionals at all levels within the Army’s environmental and sustainability organizations.
Serving as the National Guard Bureau’s Sustainability and Energy program manager, I was responsible for sustainability education and renewable energy initiatives for all 54 States and Territories. As a senior officer, I led efforts to decrease the Army’s fossil fuel use and greatly increase renewable energy use, including the Army National Guard’s first Solar Power Purchase Agreement. While stationed at the Pentagon, I served as the program manager for the Army Compatible Use Buffer program, the Army’s premier land conservation and partnership program. Under my leadership the program conserved more than 70,000 acres of U.S. land for permanent protection of habitat and green space. After over three decades of military service, it is especially rewarding, both personally and professionally, to receive recognition from my Commander in Chief as a Champion of Change.
Shortly after my retirement from service, I joined the Compatible Lands Foundation, a non-profit land trust specializing in innovative conservation partnerships with the Department of Defense. I am currently leading a first-of-its-kind partnership between federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia, green investors, and industry to create the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program’s first forest carbon project. We are working with federal partners from the Army and National Guard Bureau along with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the US Forest Service. Other partners include Mississippi State University and Northern Arizona University as well as the National Wild Turkey Federation.
We all realize that so much more can be accomplished together rather than individually; what matters is education, passion, and collaboration. Through this unique partnership we are developing a carbon sequestration project to protect national security, preserve natural resources and endangered species, and support local economies and rural jobs – all while sequestering more than 68,000 tons of greenhouse gases. Revenues from carbon offset sales will help finance additional climate resilience and cooperative conservation initiatives in Mississippi for the next ninety-nine years. This carbon sequestration project will also provide a template for replicating climate change mitigation initiatives across the United States, creating opportunities to sequester hundreds of thousands of tons of additional carbon each year.
During my “retirement” I am pursuing my Ph.D. at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability with the goal of becoming a college professor. I seek to educate the next generation about climate change, the importance of renewable energy to national security, and the importance of preserving what we are all blessed to have received.
Lieutenant Colonel Joe Knott (Ret.) is the Director of Military Partnerships for the Compatible Lands Foundation, a non-profit organization specializing in innovative conservation partnerships with the Department of Defense.