LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard’s Fort Custer Training Center (FCTC) in Augusta has won the 2020 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation in the small installation category under 10,000 acres.The Department of Defense (DoD) established the environmental awards to celebrate military service members and civilians for exceptional commitment to protecting human health and the environment while advancing the military mission. After beating other bases throughout the United States and winning at the National Guard Bureau (NGB) and U.S. Army levels, FCTC won at the secretary of defense level.The award won by the FCTC recognizes efforts to promote the conservation of natural resources, including the identification, protection and restoration of biological resources and habitats; sound long-term management and use of the land and its resources; support of the military readiness mission; and the promotion of a conservation ethic.“Protecting Michigan’s environment through responsible conservation of natural resources, energy-resilient facilities, and commitment to clean water is one of the core objectives of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs,” said Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general, Michigan National Guard. “This recognition for staff at Fort Custer proves that Michigan is a leader, not just for environmental stewardship, but as a provider of innovative solutions across the Department of Defense.”Fort Custer was recognized for a variety of sound environmental stewardship practices. It was the first installation to implement its own customized climate adaptation plan into its integrated natural resource management plan and operations. It adapted a restoration forestry concept to support natural communities and integrate climate projections into forestry and timber harvesting and is completing a biological evaluation to reintroduce the federally endangered Mitchell’s satyr butterfly on its training ranges.Fort Custer has partnered with researchers to determine the best fire application techniques to control invasive species, promote native species growth and support wildlife. Staff at Fort Custer also created the Michigan Climate Coalition (MCC), using prescribed fire to restore the ecology, and was the first National Guard base to use environmental DNA collecting.“We partnered with the MCC, consisting of about 15 different climate policy fellows, groups and organizations,” said Michele Richards, natural resources manager for FCTC. “We spoke with community members, regional representation, and various subject matter experts in climate change, and educated people on how adaptation can happen.”“It is imperative to see our environmental office recognized for their efforts to facilitate high-quality training in an environmentally responsible manner and co-use the land for endangered species research,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark McNeill, commander, Fort Custer Training Center, Michigan Army National Guard. “I am extremely proud of their accomplishments and recognition from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.”Acting on plans now while keeping a long-term vision in focus helps set sustainable goals for the future.“We have our eyes down the road 50 years and what it’s going to look like,” said Richards. “We are helping animals, insects, plants and systems adapt to a very different atmosphere.”“The Michigan National Guard has fully embraced the importance of environmental stewardship,” said Rogers. “Led by a true team of devoted professionals, the environmental staff at Fort Custer continues to raise the bar and truly set the example of what it means to be environmentally responsible.”Fort Custer was built in 1917 as Camp Custer for military training during World War I. During World War II, more than 300,000 troops trained at Fort Custer. In 1968, the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs assumed control of FCTC. The 7,500-acre installation supports small arms, bivouac and land navigation training, as well as specialized convoy reaction and improvised explosive device training.For more National Guard news: Guard Facebook: Guard Twitter: