Members of the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch were presented with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Military Conservation Partner Award on July 11 at building 60.

"The United States Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt wanted me to convey his best wishes here today," said USFWS Director-nominee Aurelia Skipwith during the presentation. "It is wonderful to be here to express our appreciation for your success and blending the important conservation work with your national defense mission, both of which are important to our nation.

"At the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we have been working hard to increase opportunities for all Americans to get outside and enjoy our public lands, which I know is a priority here at Fort McCoy," Skipwith said.

The award recognizes significant natural-resources management achievements by military installations, particularly the conservation of important wildlife and their habitats through cooperative work with the USFWS and other partners.

"To recognize the hard work that our nation's military installations do for conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created the Military Conservation Partnership Award," Skipwith said. "As you all know, Fort McCoy is a special place, and all of you have made significant investments in your natural resources, which is why we are honoring you here today. One example of the significant work you have done has been your support of the Karner blue butterfly - an endangered species that resides here on the base.

"Some of the best remaining habitat, and the largest population of this species in the world, is found right here," she said. "Another example of your creative management is the Badger Drop Zone. ... (It's) an incredible 800-acre grassland. Your work will protect this incredible habitat that is home to a variety of pollinators and sensitive bird species. The most important part is that your work meets both the military mission's and the species' needs. Whether it is conducting habitat management or species surveys, your proactive, flexible, and collaborative approach has had a big impact on the ground and has been a model for other military installations."

Natural Resources Branch (NRB) Chief Tim Wilder, who was previously the endangered species biologist for Fort McCoy, said many efforts contributed to his team earning the award.

"This is truly a Fort McCoy award and not just a Directorate of Public Works or NRB award," Wilder said. "Although the on-the-ground work completed by each NRB team member was instrumental in Fort McCoy being selected for this award, it couldn't have happened and wouldn't have happened without the support from many others on Fort McCoy. Funding is needed to complete this work. Our budget analyst, Joanne Haefele, works with us to ensure we obtain the required funding and assists us in getting these funds obligated."

"We coordinate directly with Rey Vellido and his team within the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security to ensure the work we are doing is in direct support of the overall military mission," Wilder said. "These are just two examples, but the bottom line is, we appreciate the support we get from others on the installation that allows us to be recognized for the work that we do."

The team that was recognized with this award, Wilder said, includes everyone within the Natural Resources Branch, including former NRB Chief Mark McCarty, who recently retired; all of the employees working on the installation through Colorado State University Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands agreement, who completed much of the on-the-ground work; DPTMS personnel; volunteers; and USFWS and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) employees, who either assisted with surveys or worked behind the scenes to approve projects.

"We are very proud of the positive relationship we have with both the USFWS and WDNR," Wilder said.

Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Hui Chae Kim received the team award from Skipwith. Directorate of Public Works Director Liane Haun received a USFWS Regional Director's Award in relation to the partnership award, and individual plaques were presented to NRB members. Those members included Wilder, McCarty, Kira Kaufmann, James Kerkman, David Beckmann, Charles Mentzel, John Noble, and Leigh Neitzel.

Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.

Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy."

(The Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch contributed to this article.)