This large alligator was seen at Test Area 1 in the early 2000s.
This large alligator was seen at Test Area 1 in the early 2000s. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Protecting the environment is an important mission at the Garrison and April offers two opportunities to think about ways everyone can help out Mother Nature. First is Earth Day, celebrated April 22, and National Arbor Day, which is the last Friday in April.

Redstone was recently recognized as a “Tree City USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation.

“The Army takes its environmental stewardship and obligations seriously,” Tom Richardson, environmental branch chief at the Garrison, said. “There is scarcely a single piece of land on Redstone that does not have some type of environmental concern.

“There are floodplains, wetlands, threatened and endangered species, and archeological sites. There are areas where there could be dangerous things buried in the ground. So before we build or do something on any piece of land we have to know what the issues are and what has to be done to do it wisely.”

One of the primary roles Richardson and his team play is striking a balance between protecting the area’s cultural and natural resources and allowing the Army to fulfill its various missions on Redstone.

“The Army has a mission to do in defending freedom, our country and our way of life, which includes defending our nations cultural and natural resources,” he said. “The most important aspect of finding the balance is in working with the many organizations within the Garrison and also tenants and mission stakeholders to understand what are their present and future needs, and developing a plan that meets all the environmental requirements, and ensures the most efficient use and conservation of resources.

“There’s always a right way to do things if you do the planning, evaluate all the options.”

There are over 8,000 acres of managed forests on Redstone, along with thousands of other unimproved areas that the Garrison maintains, according to Richardson.

With that much land, which serves as a habitat for a tremendously bio-diverse eco system, it means Redstone could be see major impacts from climate change.

“Some climate change threats to natural resources at Redstone Arsenal are warming waters ­– surface and groundwater – which will impact aquatic species that are threatened, endangered or considered at risk fish, mollusks and invertebrates,” Richardson said.

Some examples he gave are the endangered Alabama Cave Shrimp and the proposed endangered Tuscumbia darter.

“Alabama has one of the most diverse assemblages of aquatic snails and the most diverse assemblage of mussels in the world,” he said.

It’s not just the bio-diversity that relies on Redstone’s aquatic environments that will see changes.

Richardson said changes in the forests’ composition could lead to more climate resilient invasive species of plants, which would outcompete the native vegetation, leading to potential negative impacts on the animals that forage for food on post.

“There’s no way of knowing the total number of plant and animal species on the installation,” he said. “It would be like counting stars in the sky, once you get down to the insects in the soil. But it is known that Alabama and Redstone in general are known as areas of tremendous bio-diversity.

“There are 13 threatened or endangered species on Redstone, most notably several types of bats and the Alabama Cave Shrimp. There are in fact alligators on Redstone and they are listed as a threatened species.”