Riley keeps the prairie healthy
By Cathy Kropp (USAEC)April 7, 2014
Partnerships are helping keep the prairie healthy at Fort Riley, Kansas, and have helped earn the installation's Natural Resource Team the FY 2013 Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards Program team award for Natural Resources Conservation.The Fort Riley NR team continuously seeks opportunities to enhance the installation's natural resources, partnering with other organizations with similar conservation goals and sharing their expertise throughout the region."Fort Riley has great partnerships with our Flint Hills neighbors," said Col. Andrew Cole, Fort Riley garrison commander. "Our partnerships have effectively enhanced our sustainability objectives in support of Fort Riley's mission and the well being of our Soldiers."The team acquired $84,000 in supplemental funding and equipment from Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Remington, Eagle Claw and Quail forever. The funding was used primarily to enhance habitat and improve hunting and fishing opportunities on the installation.Through a collaborative effort with the Fort Riley Outdoors Group, the Fort Riley NR team provided youth turkey and deer hunts for dependents of deployed Soldiers. This program received national attention and media coverage.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Fort Riley team partnered to install a water diversion structure to divert waste products from an off-post cattle holding facility, establishing a grass buffer to improve water quality for the endangered Topeka shiner.The USDA and the Fort Riley team initiated a wildlife damage assessment for Marshall Army Airfield's wildlife airstrike hazard assessment guidance. This effort prompted nuisance animal removal and led to innovative methods to reduce potential animal strikes.The NR team also partnered with the installation's Army Community Services and provided mentoring and NR management to nine Warrior Transition Battalion Soldiers and two military family volunteers, through the ACS Volunteer Program.The Wildcat Creek Conservation Partnership and the Greater Prairie Chicken Partnership Coalition enabled the NR team to complete seven stream improvement projects benefitting the federally endangered Topeka shiner, develop a 20,000 acre easement protecting prairie chicken habitat, and undertake other prairie maintenance projects.Fort Riley hosted the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism Region 2 annual meeting. Discussions and interactions with these officials have led to extended hunting seasons on Fort Riley for Soldiers returning from deployments and waiving the fishing permit fee. One particular interaction resulted in an Army Compatible Use Buffer Program partnership where the Kansas DWPT is now owner to a parcel that is land locked by Fort Riley. This allows Army use of helicopter flight routes over the area, while preserving rare bottomland forest habitat along the Kansas River.Recognizing the need to partner with adjacent landowners, the Fort Riley NR team used the USFWS?'s Partners for Wildlife Program to create a tri-party agreement to improve the condition of private lands adjacent to the installation and control invasive eastern red-cedar. This expands the high quality habitat past Fort Riley's border.As a member of the Wildcat Creek Work Group, Fort Riley, which owns more than 30 percent of the creek's watershed acreage, played a critical role in the creation and acceptance of a Flood Mitigation Plan and installation of an early warning system to let military families know when they are in harm's way.Working with the US Army Central Region Environmental and Energy Office, the Riley team helped contribute to the passage of Kansas legislation directing local government agencies to collaborate with Department of Defense activities prior to executing decisions that could negatively impact military training."Fort Riley is an excellent example of how the Army's environmental programs, a great team of dedicated professionals, and regional communication and coordination can effectively support the accomplishment of the military mission," said David B. Snodgrass, deputy director, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, Central RegionThese and other partnership help the Fort Riley NR team enhance training, improve quality of life for Soldiers and their families, and minimize regulatory encroachment, all of which result in a more sustainable training environment.