USAG Fort Devens partners with CSU to create environmentally sustainable ranges
By Jaz Levario
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Devens Public Affairs
February 18, 2022
Colorado State University (CSU) has a long-standing relationship with the Army doing environmental work across the United States. Over the last 30 years, the program has grown, and CSU has developed specialized courses such as environmental management of military land as part of their agricultural program. This program has enabled Fort Devens to restore and sustain over 2,800 acres of accessible maneuver land.
Fort Devens and CSU formed a partnership that was specific to the Integrated Training Management program (ITAM) three years ago. The ITAM program's mission is to provide data that depicts suitability, accessibility, capability, and training lands to support maneuver training and mission readiness for military personnel.
This specific partnership is unique, as CSU can provide a higher level of service through providing field crews, equipment, materials, support environmental analysis, and personnel as part of an integrated team.
One integral role of the CSU team is the forestry heavy equipment operators. The forestry heavy equipment operator position is considerably more in-depth and conservation-based than one would expect, and involves much more than just operating heavy equipment. James Bray, a forestry heavy equipment operator, explained how clearing out underbrush and trees is essential to the forest's overall biome.
"By clearing less healthy trees, we increase the light and airflow to the remaining trees allowing them to grow stronger and healthier. We take the mulched-up trees that we have removed and use them at the base of similar trees to allow for nutrients to go back into the soil, thereby allowing the older trees to provide for the newer trees; it all comes full circle."
In addition to clearing ground cover the forestry heavy equipment operators monitor the overhead canopy for hazards such as dead or broken limbs. These types of hazards can cause serious injury or death if not properly eliminated. This is why the forestry heavy equipment operators at Fort Devens Range Complex are such an important part of the integrated Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance (LRAM) team. Their day-to-day operations involve removing the low-level ground cover and hanging branches from overhead trees, which allow soldiers to refine their land navigation capabilities and maneuvers in a safe environment.
"It is important and necessary to conduct thinning tree operations and low-level ground cover removal; to keep our training ground clear to allow soldiers to train and safely run maneuvering operations. However, it is equally important that we do so in an environmentally conscious way," said Julien Hugo-Webb, LRAM and Geographical Information System (GIS) Analyst. "Fort Devens couldn't have hired a better team for this; both James and Cory have over ten years of experience in forestry and heavy equipment operation and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to conservation."
This partnership has provided an excellent opportunity for the military to benefit from the extensive experience of the LRAM team. One of the critical components of LRAM is maintaining the land to help the Army meet its training requirements. Having an integrated LRAM team at Fort Devens is imperative to maintaining a sustainable environment, as it allows for a strategic vision to be implemented in regards to expanded maneuver capacity on accessible training lands. This partnership provides Fort Devens with the knowledge and expertise to project what the land will look like in 20-30 years.
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Devens provides premier training capabilities and base operations support to the Total Force in New England.
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