By Cathy Kropp (USAEC)April 7, 2014
Successful partnerships and shared goals equaled a win for the Vermont National Guard in the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award's Natural Resources Conservation, Small Installation category.
Despite its small - only 660 acres - size, Camp Johnson is an important location and habitat plays a large role in preservation and conservation efforts for both the Army and the state. With approximately 175 acres of pitch pine forest, the installation boasts Vermont's largest remaining stretch of this habitat, which supports 15 state-listed rare plants as well as many insect species that are depended on this type of habitat.
"Folks really don't understand that this place is home to one of the last natural communities of pitch pine," said Maj. Jacob Roy, environmental program manager. "The Guard can protect and revive it. That's a pretty big legacy to leave behind, especially taking into consideration that it's in the middle of a training area. We can continue training and the Guard can fulfill its mission, and we can still save, restore, and rejuvenate a threatened natural community."
Camp Johnson has partnered with a number local agencies to help its natural resources conservation program succeed. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, or ANR, provided two staff members to assist the Army in developing pitch pine nursery seed stock. The Green Mountain Power Company donated use of a bucket truck to gather the seed. The University of Vermont nursery raised the seedlings until they were ready for replanting.
"The Vermont National Guard knows the importance of working with the community as a team. I am very proud of our staff's coordinating with our community partners to help make projects happen successfully. This award is a testament to not only the Vermont National Guard Conservation Program, but to how we work together as a Guard family," said Maj. Gen. Steven A. Cray, the Adjutant General.
The state Wildlife Department provides Camp Johnson with a botanist as part of the Non-game Natural Heritage Program. St. Michael's College obtained grant funding to assist with pitch pine research on the installation. Students conducting field work provide Camp Johnson ARNG staff with cutting-edge data and analysis at no cost to the Army.
But the Army also does their part to preserve this valuable ecosystem. For the past two years, funding for invasive species control has come from the forestry reserve fund. Camp Johnson's natural resource staff applied for and won grants of $15,000 in 2012 and 2013 for invasive species management in the pitch pine forest.
Invasive honeysuckle is a significant problem for Camp Johnson?'s pitch pine forest. An invasive species crew manually removes honeysuckle trees and treats the stumps with herbicide. More than 100 of the 122 acres monitored were treated last year, which is an annual goal for the camp.
In addition, Department of Forestry and Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station demonstrated to local agencies and conservation organizations how to use a propane torch to control invasive species. Camp Johnson is using this method to reduce herbicide use.
Forest management is Camp Johnson's main natural resource tool for preserving this important ecosystem. Reviving the installation's prescribed burn program; continuing invasive species management, wildlife protection and habitat enhancement, and adding logging operations that allow tops of logged tree to dry out and provide more debris fuel, have all contributed to the post?'s success and its recognition in the Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards Program.
Camp Johnson has an in-house burn crew and fire staff that led their prescribed burns. They were assisted by the City of Colchester and St. Michael's College fire departments. A special exemption to the statewide fire ban was granted based on the National Guard?'s demonstrated fire management capability. The college conducted pre- and post-fire analysis of effects on plant and insect species.
After invasive species have been eradicated and prescribed burns completed, Camp Johnson's Natural Resource staff uses pitch pine seedlings for replanting. Out of the 120 seedlings raised in the university's nursery, half were planted in 2013. Plans call planting the remainder in 2014.
Partnerships have been essential to the Vermont Army National Guard's success at Camp Johnson. The states' Agency of Natural Resources and St. Michael's college have been the primary supporters of the camp's natural resource projects, providing staff, funding, expertise, materials, and research capabilities.
Sharing what is learned by each of the partners helps everyone succeed, and ensures this invaluable ecosystem not only survives, but thrives.