FORT McCOY, Wis. – One of the Army’s premiere Total Force Training Centers, Fort McCoy provides land for Soldiers to train, recreational areas for hunting and fishing, and forest for commercial agricultural purposes while simultaneously protecting four federal and 33 state-listed threatened and endangered species and controlling for invasive species.
Fort McCoy provides a wide array of Army training opportunities for combat, combat-service, and combat-service support personnel. The land consists of a 7,773-acre impact area, 47,000 acres of forest, 3,475 acres of grassland, 4,400 acres of wetland, 71 miles of streams, and 10 lakes.
In collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Fort McCoy completed the 2019-20 annual review of the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan. During the reporting period, 233 high-priority projects were scheduled and 230 were completed, exceeding a 98% completion rate. In addition, no net loss of training occurred, resulting in higher-than-expected success for the center.
One of the high-priority projects was to enhance the mission through forest and land use management. To help accomplish this, the Natural Resources Branch, in conjunction with the Fort McCoy Fire Department, performs annual prescribed burns to reduce wildfire potential in and around ranges, improve wildlife habitat, control invasive species, and restore native plant communities.
During the reporting period, 10,206 acres were managed through prescribed burns. These burns also improve habitat for many rare species including the federally endangered Karner blue, regal fritillary, and Ottoe skipper butterflies; grasshopper sparrow; and the upland sandpiper.
Naturally restored land provides more room for lupine to grow, which attracts more bees and butterflies. To further improve the urban forest and make the grounds safe for training, the NRB also removed 228 hazard trees and 26 shrubs while pruning hundreds of others to improve the overall health of the forest.
Another project was to collect data on eight species undergoing status reviews by the Fish and Wildlife Service for potential listing under the Endangered Species Act. The data will assist the agency in making listing decisions and Fort McCoy in completing consultations if species are listed.
Actions included surveying for monarch butterflies within 3,400 acres of grasslands, mapping habitat for the regal fritillary butterfly on 321 acres, conducting 700 surveys for rare butterflies, implanting passive integrated transponders tags within 21 bull snakes, and using telemetry equipment to monitor turtles and snakes to determine critical nesting and hibernation locations.
To further its efforts to maintain a strong habitat and encourage community engagement, Fort McCoy provides approximately 48,000 acres of accessible land for hunting and other recreational activities. During the reporting period, Fort McCoy issued more than 15,000 hunting, fishing, trapping, and firewood cutting permits, which generated more than $187,000 in revenue.
Fort McCoy also held four free fishing weekends to encourage the use of its lakes, ponds, and streams. In addition, Fort McCoy offers public access for hiking, bird watching, and picking mushrooms and berries when military training is not occurring.
“The NRB’s accomplishments have enhanced military training, improved the quality of life for Soldiers and civilians, and minimized both the internal and regulatory encroachment on the mission,” said Tim Wilder, Natural Resource Branch chief. “With 130-plus years of combined natural-resources experience, the dedicated NRB professionals remain fully engaged in a collaborative effort with internal and external customers and stakeholders in supporting the mission while ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations.”