Forester keeps watchful eye on Anniston Army Depot trees
Chad Basinger uses an increment borer to examine the health and age of a tree at Anniston Army Depot.

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - In 2009, two timber sales were held at Anniston Army Depot, bringing $79,040.73 to the U.S. Army General Fund Budget Clearing Account, which is managed by Defense, Finance and Accounting Services. Another two sales are currently in progress in the Ammunition Limited Area and have already brought in $20,000 in 2010.

The depot's wooded areas are managed on a 10-year cycle by Chad Basinger, the installation's natural resource specialist. Each year, a different area receives his attention. He reviews maps then drives and walks the area, looking for disease, insects and other circumstances that could endanger the health of the trees. After this visual survey, he establishes a management plan for the plant life in that vicinity.

"The main idea is to keep a healthy, growing forest with stand structure and all ages represented in the ecosystem," said Basinger.

Occasionally, the plan includes a timber sale. Basinger institutes a timber sale at least once every year to remove insect-infected and diseased trees or to thin the forest, allowing for growth of the most desirable trees.

A sale may also be held to make room for construction or to break up large timber stands before they grow to maturity, which helps with sustainability.

Some trees are even removed simply because they have gotten too old.

"Once a tree gets to a certain age, it's no good. It begins to consume more oxygen than it gives off and it's best to remove it and plant a young tree in its place," said Basinger.

Basinger has always enjoyed the outdoors, so it was natural for him to go into timber management, earning his forestry degree in 2001 from Auburn University.

Unable to find a forestry job, Basinger served as the supervisor of a landscaping crew after getting his degree. Shortly thereafter, however, he was given the opportunity to go back into the classroom, this time as a teacher.

Basinger taught seventh and eighth grade science as well as a forestry elective at B.B. Comer Memorial High School in Sylacauga and truly enjoyed working with students.

"I made sure my classroom was not entirely inside. We went outside every day," said Basinger.

In October 2003, another opportunity came along and he was asked to choose between teaching and his chosen field, forestry, when he was offered a job at Anniston Army Depot under the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education program.

His choice of the ORISE program meant having to get out of his teaching contract. Fortunately, the principal understood and he was soon working as a natural resource specialist alongside William "Billy" Burns for the depot's Directorate of Risk Management.

Basinger was converted to a permanent position in January 2005 and, upon Burns' retirement in September 2009, took over the roles of land management, cultural resource management and pest management coordinator.

"It's not a routine job. Every day is something different. I never know when I come to work what I will have to do," said Basinger.

As cultural resource manager, Basinger works with the Alabama Historical Society to ensure historic buildings on the depot are properly preserved.

Basinger is one of two people who are licensed on the depot to spray pesticides and herbicides - the other being Glenn Geier - and he has to report each time any pesticide or herbicide is applied and prove it adheres to specifications and regulations.

As forester and land manager, he handles erosion control, water issues, dirt moving and the depot's hunting program as well as threatened and endangered species.

"Chad's counsel is invaluable to the depot, ensuring we implement Army land management and industry practices to the most realistic extent possible, while minimizing impact on ANAD's missions. This can be challenging since factors such as safety considerations in ammunition operations impact how ANAD implements these practices," said Tracy Williams, chief of the environmental management and restoration division of DRK.

Though each aspect of his job is interesting to him and presents its own challenges, nothing speaks to him like his work with the trees. No matter how much time he spends outside at work, he said he still enjoys being among trees in his spare time, especially when accompanied by his twin sons, who are learning to have an appreciation for the natural wonders that surround them.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16