ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The Michigan Army National Guard's Fort Custer Training Center won both the FY 2009 Secretary of the Army award and Secretary of Defense award for natural resources conservation on a small installation.The Fort Custer Training Center is a 7,500-acre installation that provides trained and ready forces in support of state, local and regional emergencies. The center has a number of significant natural features nested in a matrix of woodlands, wetlands and remnant prairies.Several rare and at-risk communities, such as Prairie Fens, oak savanna, oak forests, southern wet meadows, southern hardwood swamps, dry sand prairies and mesic prairies, provide habitat for threatened and endangered species and support many plant alliances on the installation. Fort Custer's natural resources staff is committed to maintaining balance between environmental management requirements and Michigan Army National Guard's mission support."I was very impressed with the way the Michigan ARNG balanced the work of managing a diverse natural resource program with excellent coordination with their partners. I liked the emphasis on cost savings and focus on accomplishing work with the installation mission in mind," said Laura Henze, National Sikes Act Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."They have developed an innovative program that includes an emphasis on restoring endangered species, preserving migratory birds, reaching out to the community and providing outdoor recreation opportunities to the disabled," Henze said.Fort Custers's natural resources management program improves the quality of life for training center personnel and members of the surrounding community by creating a green space that is a haven for flora and fauna, including unique ecological areas and recreation opportunities.The installation's wetlands and prairie fens are unique and valuable ecological communities that are not well represented elsewhere in the state, offering education opportunities that would not otherwise exist to visitors and students. Natural resources staff makes every effort possible to include the public and students from surrounding communities in the natural resource activities that take place on the installation, and they work with a wide variety of local environmental organizations and academic institutions to transfer knowledge, advance research and increase regional biodiversity.
Fort Custer's Environmental Office continually demonstrates its achievements in every aspect of program management, from rare ecosystem restoration to community involvement to fiscal responsibility. The natural resources staff not only executes its objective of conserving Fort Custer Training Center's natural resources but also works to increase these resources by introducing endangered species onto the installation, creating wetlands mitigation banks, sharing management costs with partner organizations and transferring its expertise to students, the general public and other National Guard installations.An independent panel of judges made up of professionals from federal, state and Army organizations recommended MIARNG for the award. The Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards represent the highest honor in the field of environmental science and sustainability conferred by the Army. Fort Custer went on to win in their category at the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards competition.Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for the Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Tad Davis recognized MIARNG and the winners of the other eight categories as the best examples of how environmental stewardship and sustainability play a crucial role in the Army's mission readiness."The Army recognizes successes that demonstrate mission-driven solutions that protect the environment at installations here and overseas. Whatever we do needs to revolve around supporting the mission, taking care of our Soldiers, civilians, and Families," said Davis. "In simplistic terms the Army, our Army, your Army - is building green, buying green and going green. These winning environmental programs make the Army sustainable thereby impacting generations to come."For details about the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award recipients, visit the U.S. Army Environmental Command's Web site at <a href="http://aec.army.mil/usaec/newsroom/awards00.html">http://aec.army.mil/usaec/newsroom/awards00.html</a>