By Rita Hess (USAEC Contractor)March 14, 2017
The Hawaii Army National Guard (HIARNG) Sustainability Program had a unique challenge: maintain pest management measures and reduce waste in a cost-efficient manner--and in a tropical island environment full of sensitive ecosystems and endangered species.
The program met those directives, in part by launching a new and somewhat unconventional pest management technique: goat and sheep grazing. It slashed costs, safeguarded sensitive habitat from adverse maintenance impacts, and allowed sections of training land to re-open. Project efforts resulted in a fiscal 2016 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Sustainability (Non-Industrial Installation) and a chance to take home a Secretary of Defense Environmental Award later this year.
"The Hawaii Army National Guard Sustainability program clearly demonstrates how fully engaged leadership, coupled with sound environmental practices and innovative approaches, can directly enhance Army readiness," said Mr. Eugene Collins, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health.
The HIARNG installation's primary training site is the Keaukaha Military Reservation (KMR) in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Almost half of KMR's 504 acres are among the most endangered lowland wet forest ecosystems. Numerous non-native species have invaded these forests, which are home to the Hawaiian hawk, the Hawaiian hoary bat, and a shrub called Haiwale--all of which are endangered.
The KMR forest is also home to endemic species not found anywhere else in the world.
With such a sensitive habitat, the HIARNG needed a pest management program that supported both wildlife and the training mission. Goat and sheep grazing appeared to show significant cost savings over other methods they had used at KMR. The cost of using goats and sheep is $500 per acre. This compares to $1,500 per acre for inmate labor and $5,500 per acre for contractors--both previously provided herbicide application and/or mechanical removal methods.
When choosing grazing test sites, the Sustainability Program staff considered terrain, previous pesticide use, and existence of threatened or endangered species that may be harmed by grazing.
In 2016, 46 acres were ultimately managed with a 194-animal herd in portable paddocks. Results have been dramatic: the goats and sheep clear an average of one acre in just one and a half days and are able to clear areas with terrain that is difficult for machines to access. As a bonus, eliminating machines also reduces petroleum emissions and the potential for leaks or spills of fuel or hydraulic fluids. Herbicide use has been eliminated for the acres under grazing management as well.
Efforts have also yielded significant benefits to the HIARNG mission. The cost-efficient removal of invasive species frees up critical funds for other projects. Grazing reduces fire fuel loads, thereby minimizing fires that might interrupt training. Goats and sheep remove understory while keeping middle and upper canopies intact, meeting natural resources management goals. Bottom line: controlling invasive vegetation helps ensure the training site will not be subject to restrictions related to protection of threatened and endangered or endemic species.
Sustainability program efforts also kept more than 46 tons of paper and 42 tons of cardboard out of landfills over the past two years, and adding batteries to their allowed recyclables in 2016 generated $5,000 income and 13 tons of batteries. The program has also enacted measures to reduce energy use. In 2012, the Adjutant General set an energy reduction goal of 25 percent, with 5 percent annual reductions through 2017--a goal the HIARNG installation is on track to meet. Dedication to sustaining the environment will serve it and the surrounding communities well.