Fort Drum natural resources conservation efforts merit recognition
April 13, 2011
- Fort Drum consistently demonstrates superior leadership in environmental protection and management, while emphasizing mission readiness.
- Sustaining Fort Drum's lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, forests, grasslands, and developed areas falls to the NRC Branch.
- Fort Drum's natural resources conservation sucesses are acknowledged through receipt of the Secretary of the Army Enviornmental Award.
Fort Drum is known as the Army's premier installation in the Northeast and, based on its recent selection for a Secretary of the Army Environmental Award, can also lay claim to the title of the premier Army installation for natural resources conservation.
Fort Drum's 107,265 acres support reserve and active duty forces, Family members, and civilian employees, as well as National Guard units from 11 states. Sustaining Fort Drum's lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, forests, grasslands, and developed areas falls to the Natural Resources Conservation Branch, an 18-person team responsible for fish and wildlife, forest, and wetlands management, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
"With the ever-increasing demand for new facilities and Soldier housing, and changing training mission requirements, the natural resources staff has creatively and effectively met the challenges of timelines, changing footprints, and federal and state legal requirements while protecting the environment and ensuring mission sustainability," said Col. Noel T. Nicolle, Fort Drum garrison commander .
Fort Drum's Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan is fully incorporated into its environmental management system and used as a source document for all natural resources and NEPA activities. Following the plan's goals produced the results recognized by the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award.
The Natural Resources team cites its integrated team approach, cooperative working relationships with internal and external stakeholders, and partnerships with other entities for its success. The staff has outstanding working relationships with state and federal regulators and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Interactions with regulators regarding endangered species, fish and wildlife management, construction permitting for stream and wetland impacts, and forest management are conducted with understanding and respect of each organization's mission and requirements. Regular coordination meetings facilitate training- and construction-related projects and activities, and address the complex array of environmental regulations, natural resources conservation issues, construction activities and mission requirements.
This team approach also increases efficiency through shared resources, as seen in the Geographic Information System office, which is run by one staff member funded by the Department of Public Works and another funded by the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. This shared operation produced a 107,265-acre mapping project with 93 different land-cover types and unmatched accuracy and resolution.
Coordination with eight state, local and tribal government agencies, and other stakeholders also resulted in the first major off-post training mission for the 10th Mountain Division. These efforts enabled the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade to conduct high-altitude helicopter flight training critical to their Afghanistan deployment at one of New York State's highest mountains. NEPA coordination involved establishing training locations, dates and times to avoid a geographically unique migratory bird species, and conducting long-term migratory birds monitoring during training.
Through their work with Fort Drum entities, the Natural Resources staff created the Electronic Environmental Review and Coordination System, which in most cases reduces approval time for post projects and military training missions from 14 days to two days.
Other team efforts included compiling and selecting native seed mixes for re-vegetation of construction projects, planting 1,400 trees in wetland mitigation bank sites, and harvesting and storing willow cuttings for future plantings using refrigerators slated for disposal. These wetland mitigation actions save more than $150,000 an acre in installation project construction costs.
Fort Drum also boasts the only established maple syrup processor within the Department of Defense. Maple syrup processing allows sustainable management of an alternative forest product without tree removal. This provides crucial wildlife habitat and aesthetic value, especially in the area where Soldiers and Families live and work.
During the past two years much of Fort Drum's Fish and Wildlife Management Program resources have been devoted to endangered species management of the federally listed Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis).
The installation is an important focal area for bat community research, including efforts involving White-Nose Syndrome. The Fish and Wildlife Program is an integral partner in ongoing research on this unprecedented wildlife health crisis responsible for killing over one million hibernating bats in the Northeast. Research at Fort Drum offers some hope against the devastation of the disease by demonstrating a small probability that individual bats can heal from and survive multiple infection cycles.
"Research by Fort Drum's Natural Resources staff, done in conjunction with other state and federal agencies, has clearly demonstrated the enormous impact White-Nose Syndrome has on bat communities, and subsequently on the ecological integrity of military installations," said Jason E. Wagner, Fort Drum natural resources branch chief. "The Fish and Wildlife Program staff is involved in national research efforts to examine the syndrome's potential impacts and potential persistence and transmission in summer maternity colonies," he said.
Creation of a 2,200-acre Bat Conservation Area preserved known bat habitat and minimized the amount of land restricted for development, military training and recreation. Forest stands in the area were inventoried; concentrating on known Indiana bat maternity colonies, to develop predictive models for potential bat habitat use in the Northeastern U.S.
These and their many other activities have made the Fort Drum Natural Resources staff leaders as well as winners in natural resources conservation. The team continually demonstrates its understanding of the importance of sustaining Fort Drum's current training land capacity and capability to perform its training mission and readiness functions, and its commitment to sustaining those training lands through management, monitoring, and research.