Partnerships reap rewards
April 19, 2013
A panel of judges awarded the Natural Resources Conservation large installation award to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., for the 2012 Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards Program.
The Kentucky Army National Guard (ARNG) nomination cited partnerships and relationships as the reasons for their natural resources conservation successes.
By developing relationships with the trainers, range control, master planning staff and Integrated Training Army Management department, the NRC staff is able to ensure the work they do supports and enhances the installation mission.
The installation is a critical resource for the region, providing maneuver, weapons, convoy, urban assault, MEDEVAC and virtual simulation training. Long-term sustainability of these training capabilities is dependent on long-term sustainability of the training site's lands.
The NRC program manager also coordinates with the installation's Environmental Quality Control Committee, which enables training priorities to be planned with an eye to benefitting the environment and ensuring sustainability of Army natural resources.
The training center's relationship with regulators, like the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (DFWR), has allowed cooperative exchanges that have benefitted both the ARNG and the state. Since the Kentucky DFWR manages conservation areas adjacent to the training center, the state and ARNG NRC staff frequently work cooperatively on habitat improvement, surveys and other land management efforts.
Partnering on prescribed fire efforts has also helped the installation generate cost savings and avoid contract costs. More than 3,000 of the installation's 11,512 acres are managed with prescribed fire to control invasive species and restore native grasses and trees at virtually no cost. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kentucky DFWR staff use the training center lands to conduct training for their staff to help meet installation NRC goals.
The prescribed fire activities help eradicate and control non-native species and invasive plants that were introduced to the area through mismanagement of the land by the coal company that previously owned the land. Prescribed fire also minimizes the need of herbicide use for pest control.
The controlled fires and disturbances caused by Soldier training also help promote growth of native grasses, allowing the grasses to establish strong root systems. Re-establishing native grasses is also essential to soil stabilization, a critical issue for formerly mined lands. It also benefits wildlife populations, diversity and habitat quality.
A contract through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing a comprehensive state- and federally-listed threatened and endangered species study for flora and fauna on the installation. The installation's relationship with the Corps is allowing ARNG NRC staff to shadow the Corps contractors so future surveys can be conducted in-house with ARNG staff, avoiding future contracting costs.
The NRC staff is also assisting the Kentucky Ornithological Society who is developing a species list of the area as surveys are conducted. More than 90 species have been recorded.
Another survey effort on the Green River, which is located on the northern boundary of the installation, is targeting mussels. Eight federally listed mussel species are present in the river.
The installation works with area universities to support fieldwork and education opportunities. Students from Western Kentucky University and Murray State University partner with the installation NRC staff to conduct studies on lake topography and contouring.
Western Kentucky University students are also completing a herpetology inventory and an aquatic study of six lakes on the installation for water quality, fish population and ecological condition. The students have been addressing sediment erosion in installation lakes by rebuilding lake banks with pea gravel. This allows the lake fish to lay their eggs in the gravel areas, increasing the success of egg production by 80 percent.
In partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation and through unique contracting opportunities, the training center is replacing non-native Loblolly pine trees with a blight-resistant variety of the American Chestnut, a tree that was once prevalent across 60 percent of the eastern U.S., but was decimated by blight in the 1940s.
The NRC program at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center is an ideal situation for blending the needs of training with the stewardship of the land. The installation is able to use Kentucky ARNG helicopters for survey requirements and deer tracking. This allows the aviation group to support NRC goals, while logging necessary flight training hours and avoiding additional contract costs.
Outreach efforts with boy scouts, local elementary and high schools, and at-risk youth have helped establish the installation as an environmental leader. These efforts also raised awareness of the importance of environmental conservation and improved the Army's reputation as a good steward of our nation's natural resources.