DOD officials recognize Air Force for environmental accomplishments
Bill Tate, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, holds an endangered Okaloosa darter during a sampling session. Christened a "National Recovery Champion" by the USFWS, the Air Force achieved key milestones in the Okaloosa Darter Recovery Plan that boosted the darter population to more than 900,000, from a low of approximately 1,500. (U.S. Air Force photo)
by Jennifer Schneider
Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment Public Affairs
4/22/2011 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Each year, Department of Defense officials recognize military personnel, teams and installations for excellent stewardship of natural and cultural resources entrusted to their care.
Conservation efforts across the Air Force over the past year were rewarded April 15, when the Air Force was announced as an award recipient in four out of nine available award categories.
A ceremony will be held June 8 in Washington, to honor the award winners.
The Air Force won both cultural resource management awards, with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, receiving the installation-level award and Eglin AFB, Fla., receiving the team-level award.
Wright-Patterson is one of the largest and most organizationally complex bases in the Air Force, said Paul Woodruff, the cultural resource manager at the installation. The base is also home to a large number of historic buildings and sites, many of which are associated with the nation's most historic aviation events, such as the site where the Wright brothers developed the first practical airplane.
The installation has successfully surveyed all 8,145 acres on base for archaeological resources, leading to identification of three additional significant sites.
"Wright-Patterson has gone out of its way to restore and preserve historic buildings," Mr. Woodruff said. "A lot of the success is due to the close working relationship we have with the National Park Service and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office."
The team received a merit award from the state for "outstanding contribution to historic preservation in Ohio," for work done on adapting a historic facility to meet new building and security requirements and to fit a new base realignment and closure mission, while retaining and restoring its historic features.
The cultural resource team works to teach base personnel about cultural resource preservation.
"We work with all of the missions here to ensure that they understand cultural resources and our facility's heritage," Mr. Woodruff said.
Eglin AFB, which received a team award for cultural resources management, is the largest Air Force installation in the world, with 464,000 acres of land and 130,000 square miles of water ranges. The cultural resources team there has identified 299 archaeology sites, evaluated 59 sites for National Register eligibility, evaluated 106 buildings and surveyed 39,068 acres of ranges.
Data recovery efforts on the base led to preservation of site information and the release of more than 35 acres for military training and testing activities, said Lynn Shreve, an archaeologist and cultural resource manager at Eglin AFB.
The team is also responsible for development of the McKinley Climatic Laboratory preservation plan to safeguard the historic features of the building during routine repairs and maintenance. The lab was completed in 1947 and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is listed as a national Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The lab has the ability to reach temperature extremes, as well as to create other weather conditions such as rain, sleet, fog, wind, snow, dust and sand, and provides the capability to test aircraft, armament systems and more in diverse climates.
"We developed the management plan to help preserve the integrity of the structure during treatments, repairs and other activities," Ms. Shreve said.
In addition to their cultural resource management accomplishments, Eglin AFB officials have also made great strides in natural resource conservation during the year, and were the recipient of the Natural Resources Conservation installation-level award.
Measures taken by program officials at Eglin AFB have resulted in population increases for both the Okaloosa darter fish and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Base officials' efforts to abate erosion at stream crossings and improve crossing structures in critical habitat areas have resulted in a population increase and a determination by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to down-list the darter from "endangered" to "threatened" status.
"It was up to the Air Force to make it or break it for this species," said Bruce Hagedorn, a supervisory biologist at Eglin AFB. "This was a monumental victory. It is the first vertebrate species down-listed solely by actions on a military installation."
Wildlife biologists at Eglin AFB have also mapped, monitored and protected existing woodpecker clusters, and created new nest sites for population expansion by drilling tree cavities.
Foresters implement periodic controlled burns and use timber sales to maintain and enhance the landscape of mature longleaf pines with an open understory that is preferred by the woodpeckers.
The base completed 21 wildlife habitat restoration programs in 2010, improving more than 18,000 acres for 85 federal- and state-listed threatened and endangered species.
The fourth Air Force environmental award went to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., for innovative environmental restoration efforts.
The installation supports space launch activities, and contains 127 environmental restoration sites encompassing more than 2,500 acres.
Using "green" and innovative technologies, 74 percent of the sites have been returned to unrestricted mission use, said Regina Butler, the restoration project manager there.
Base officials implement a number of optimization techniques and innovative technologies to enhance cleanup, and have saved as much as $18 million in lifecycle costs through these efforts, Ms. Butler said.
One project, at the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, involved remediation consisting of soil screening and mixing, as well as cultural resource management.
"It was a painstaking, almost surgical-type process," said Mike Bowers, the restoration project manager at Cape Canaveral. "We ran the dirt through a power screen to make sure that it didn't contain cultural resources."
The team members said much of their success is due to extensive partnering with stakeholders.
"As a program, we engage in formal partnering with stakeholders and regulators," Ms. Butler said. "The community is very supportive and the level of trust has done wonders for the program, and enabled us to implement innovative technologies. It has definitely been a team effort between us and the stakeholders, restoration advisory board, contractors, management, regulators, and our liaisons at AFCEE (Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment) and the Air Force Space Command."