Endangered Species Biologist Jessup Weichelt began work at Fort McCoy in November 2019 learning about the installation’s extensive endangered species program.
Weichelt serves with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch (NRB). In his position, he replaces biologist Tim Wilder, who became the NRB chief. Weichelt said he’s looking forward to continuing the great work that has already been achieved.
“I will be a steward of the habitat for endangered species while making sure the Army mission still gets accomplished,” said Weichelt, an Army National Guard veteran who has trained at Fort McCoy in the past. “I will be responsible for making sure all reports are provided to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for our endangered species and doing any consultation for current and new listed species. I will also be overseeing the Invasive Species Program and performing public outreach.”
Completing his work means he’ll have to work alongside personnel with Colorado State University’s Center for the Environmental Management of Military Lands, fellow staff members, and other partners outside of Fort McCoy.
“Fort McCoy gives a unique opportunity to manage a relatively large amount of habitat with little to no permanent habitat modification and ample resources,” said Weichelt, a native of Granton, Wis. “The types of habitat here mostly no longer exist in the rest of Wisconsin in such a large expanse, which is one of the reasons I believe there are so many sensitive and endangered species here. If we didn't care for them, then they would be taken over by invasive species and most likely pushed out, like what has happened throughout Wisconsin.”
With Weichelt on staff, four biologists now work within the NRB. Weichelt said they will make a great team.
“I believe my experience with both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service will help me bring a different outlook,” Weichelt said. “Everyone has different strengths, and I believe some of mine might be ones the other biologists might not have, and that will hopefully benefit everything as well.”
Weichelt will be closely involved in the battle to control invasive species at Fort McCoy, as well.
“Invasive species are an increasing issue when it comes to our natural habitat all over the U.S.,” Weichelt said. “The proper management of these species can make sure that native species still survive. If invasive species take over, it has a bottom-up effect, whereas if a native plant gets taken over by an invasive, it can cause issues higher up the food chain.
“One example where I have experienced an extreme case of an invasive species taking over is with cheatgrass out west,” he said. “This species would take over an entire field, and it was unpalatable to many animals, resulting in those animals leaving the areas. This then causes the entire area to change. Another problem with invasive (species) is native species — both plant and animal — don’t have the proper time to adapt, which can result in a huge decline in certain species. Numerous examples of that exist, from the emerald ash borer to the Asian carp.”
Wilder said Weichelt has been a welcome addition to the staff.
“Bringing new individuals into the organization is always an exciting time,” Wilder said. “New employees have a fresh perspective, a new way of looking at workplace challenges and opportunities. The majority of the staff within the Natural Resources Branch are seasoned employees. They have worked on the installation for many years and are starting to contemplate retirement. Bringing in new employees now who can glean institutional knowledge from the current staff while adding their own unique way of accomplishing tasks will only make the organization stronger.”
Weichelt said he also looks forward to knowing the community better, and he said he’s at Fort McCoy for the long term.
“I definitely didn't come close to describing everything I am going to do in this position, but want everyone to know how excited I am to be here,” Weichelt said. “I have felt like over the last seven years, I have just been floating along and never wanting to commit fully to a position, knowing I was going to be leaving. But now I finally feel like I have reached the spot where I can go all in. I’m definitely happy to be back in my home state of Wisconsin.”