More than ammo: Natural resource management important part of Iowa Army Ammunition Plant

By Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command, Public and Congressional AffairsOctober 31, 2023

More than ammo: Natural resource management important part of Iowa Army Ammunition Plant
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A tree frog rests on a log at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, one of over a dozen subordinates of the Joint Munitions Command. (Joe Haffner, Iowa Army Ammunition Plant) (Photo Credit: JMC Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL
More than ammo: Natural resource management important part of Iowa Army Ammunition Plant
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A buck makes a splash at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. The white-tailed deer population is managed via the installation’s hunting program. (Joe Haffner, Iowa Army Ammunition Plant) (Photo Credit: JMC Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL
More than ammo: Natural resource management important part of Iowa Army Ammunition Plant
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lake Mathes is in the west-central portion and covers approximately 90 acres at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. The lake was formed in 1941, during the construction of IAAAP, by damming Long Creek. Lake Mathes was used as a drinking water source from 1941 until 1977, after which IAAAP began obtaining drinking water on a fee basis from the town of Burlington. (Joe Haffner, Iowa Army Ammunition Plant) (Photo Credit: JMC Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

Since the 1970s, the Army has implemented a range of environmental policies, initiatives, rules, and control systems to ensure minimal impact on the environment from its operational and support undertakings.

The Army's strong dedication to being an environmental caretaker is evident through the progression of its environmental initiatives and the documented advancements achieved over time because of these initiatives. The Army hasn't completely resolved all its environmental challenges, but it has established a structured and systematic approach that has led to notable headway and continues to do so.

The Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, which is one of over a dozen subordinates of the Joint Munitions Command, plays it part with its extensive natural resource management plan.

IAAAP encompasses 29.7 square miles and sits just south of the city of Middletown in Southeast Iowa. IAAAP consists of roughly 8,550 acres of forested/brush land, 6,550 acres of agricultural land, and 3,650 acres of industrial area which includes road and rail right of ways. It also has 250 acres of lakes, streams, ponds, and wetlands.

“Natural resource management is of paramount importance due to its vital role in sustaining ecosystems, human livelihoods, and the overall health of our planet,” said Lt. Col. John Dunlapp, IAAAP’s commander. “Effective management ensures the responsible use of resources like forests, minerals, water, and biodiversity, preventing overexploitation and environmental degradation. By balancing ecological needs with human demands, it supports long-term sustainability, resilience against climate change, and the preservation of biodiversity for present and future generations.”

Joe Haffner, IAAAP’s management agronomist, performs natural resource management duties for the installation. The components of the natural resource program at IAAAP are agricultural and grazing; hunting, fishing, and trapping; invasive species pest management; threatened and endangered species; wetlands; prairie habitat; and wildlife/fisheries management.

“Regularly scheduled plans and assessments are carried out to aid in the supervision of natural resources,” Haffner said. “These encompass surveys at the flora and fauna planning level, invasive species evaluations, studies of endangered species, assessments of wetlands, surveys of deer herds, integrated plans for managing natural resources, plans for integrated pest management, and strategies for managing agricultural tracts.”

The agricultural and grazing outleasing program currently has 58 tracts of land under 48 outlease contracts to 17 lessees. The leases are on a five-year term and are staggered so that approximately 1,000 to 1,200 acres are up for lease each year. The program has about 260 acres under grazing, contains about 5,100 acres in row crop or high value hay, and 1,190 acres of grass hay.

The agricultural program’s focus is on the management of the soil, the soil ecosystem, and how it is impacted by agricultural practices, stormwater, and wind.

“This program involves the implementation of various best management practices, including conservation tillage, crop rotation, minimal fall tillage, restricted autumn nitrogen application, reporting of pesticide application, limitations on crop residue harvesting, post-planting crop residue requirements, utilization of grass waterways, installation of tile and terrace systems, establishment of windbreaks, and effective soil testing, and fertilizer application management,” Haffner said.

Rental payments collected from agricultural outleases are not taxpayer dollars and are used to manage the program, which is self-sustaining and supports the Army’s mission by reducing or eliminating operating cost to the installation on those acres.

Annual program revenue is generated from cash rent and fertilizer costs which are collected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Annual program funding is authorized by the Army through an annual work plan request. IAAAP’s agricultural program is the largest revenue generator in the Army Materiel Command. The annual revenues range between $1.5 and $2 million dollars.

The public can participate in IAAAP’s hunting, fishing, and trapping program by entering a lottery draw. Applications for installation permits are taken in April, followed by the lottery draw in May. Successful applicants receive their installation permits in August annually. The current year saw the issuance of 301 permits, encompassing 665 hunting, fishing, or trapping opportunities. The objective for this year is to achieve a deer harvest of 300. To meet this target, a few more shotgun season hunters are needed. IAAAP functions as a zone for managing the deer population and implements an "Earn a Buck" policy. It's important to note that the use of centerfire rifles and handguns is not allowed.

The Wounded Warrior hunt wasn’t held for two years due to COVID-19 and last year it didn’t take place due to a lack of participants. This hunt is held by the Iowa Conservation Officers Association with the installation hosting the event by providing the hunting locations and personnel familiar with the hunting program.

IAAAP provides 13 deer hunting blinds for use. Four of those blinds are handicap accessible. The Lake Mathes boat ramp area has an accessible fishing deck and small open shelter house.

There are over 770 known flora/plant species, 119 non-native species and 31 invasive species at IAAAP. Invasive species such as eastern red cedar, musk thistle, and teasel are at the top of the list for control. Every year an effort is made to reduce these species with chemical and mechanical methods.

“The reduction in the use of pesticides is the main goal of the pest management program using integrated pest management techniques and best practices to control invasive species and pests,” Haffner said. “As an example, when honeybees are found residing in a facility or structure, which is a risk to human safety, we contact a local beekeeper and attempt to capture/relocate the hive prior to use of other physical or chemical control measures.”

There are threatened and endangered species of concern at IAAAP. All are bat species. The Endangered Species Act calls for the protection of the individual bat and their habitat. All actions and projects which could impact federally listed species are evaluated for opportunities to eliminate, reduce, and/or mitigate impacts to those species.

IAAAP installed 13 roost structures for bats several years ago, which were not used by the bats. This leads to the belief that habitat is not a limiting factor for bat recovery at IAAAP. White-nose syndrome (a fungus) is likely one of the major issues with the decline and recovery in North America.

Wetlands receive protection under the Clean Water Act. Any activities or initiatives that might affect wetlands are thoroughly assessed to find ways to minimize, decrease, or counteract any potential negative effects. IAAAP has effectively managed to prevent harm to wetlands. Over the last three decades, there have been just two instances when new wetlands needed to be established as a form of mitigation. These replacement wetlands, each smaller than one acre, underwent a five-year monitoring period to ensure they functioned as intended.

Wildlife management at IAAAP focuses mainly on the management of habitat except for white-tailed deer and raccoon. These two species have the potential to adversely impact the local ecosystem when their population levels aren’t controlled.

The deer population is managed via the hunting program. Harvest goals are determined from spotlight survey trend data, historical harvest data, natural mortality data, and browse damage to preferred and non-preferred plant species.

With the downturn of the wild fur industry in North America the trapping of raccoons has all but stopped at IAAAP. High raccoon populations present an increased risk to humans, damage to facilities, and negatively impact other wildlife such as birds, reptiles, and amphibians. IAAAP will likely implement an annual raccoon control effort in 2024.

Wild turkey populations have declined significantly over the last few years. A recent study showed that predation of wild turkey nest has had a major impact on the population at IAAAP. High populations of nest predators such as raccoon, skunk, and opossum have likely contributed to the decline in ground nesting bird populations.

Various prairie plantings and brush reduction areas have been established across IAAAP to provide and maintain beneficial grassland type habitat for multiple wildlife species.

Fisheries management focuses mainly on providing trophy largemouth bass and sunfish opportunities through possession and length limits. The stocking of channel catfish is required for smaller ponds and lakes due to the lack of natural reproduction. A total of 500 channel cats are stocked every three to four years in five to six lakes/ponds at IAAAP.

”Our strategy for overseeing environmental initiatives is seamlessly integrated into the broader existing management system, and aligns with the Army's overall culture and processes,” Dunlapp said. “IAAAP’s natural resource management program is designed to maximize opportunities for citizens in a sustainable way, while reducing facility operating costs. This is achieved by providing sustainable agricultural leases for farmers and a quality outdoor experience for hunters and anglers.”