Joint Base MDL, US Fish & Wildlife Service partner to protect conservation areas

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jake Carter
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service, whose mission is to protect wildlife, habitats and make refuge safe places, conserves America’s natural resources. Recently, they joined the mission of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

For the first time, USFWS and the 787th Civil Engineer Squadron will work hand-in-hand to protect and conserve the local and U.S. government land where fish and wildlife reside.

Terrance Butler, Federal Wildlife officer for the USFWS, recently arrived at Joint Base MDL, where he was tasked to start the program from scratch while working alongside CES Airmen.

“My role here is to support the mission of the base, and in conjunction with that, to assist the conservation program here that includes hunting, fishing, environmental issues and community relations,” Butler said. “(In) my position as a conservation law enforcement officer, I will protect migratory birds, historical sites and aid in the compliance with hunters and fishermen, making sure they have the proper permits and abide by the rules on the range and cantonment areas across the joint base.”

The 787th CES used internal resources to conserve the land until Butler arrived. It was only recently that the opportunity to have a USFWS officer available for Joint Base MDL became a reality.

“Any installation that has the land mass like we do has to run a recreation program. Included in that is a requirement for a conservation law enforcement officer,” said Mark Stevenson, 787th CES natural resources biological scientist. “There was a program that came from Air Force Civil Engineer Center where we had the opportunity to accept a USFWS officer (under the Sikes Act), and we said absolutely.”

The Sikes Act allows military installations the opportunity to work together with a sister federal agency to assist in conservation programs. It recognizes the value of military lands to its natural resources and seeks to ensure that these ecosystems are protected and enhanced while allowing the military to continue to meet the needs of operations.

“This program is obviously new and we’ve been trying to get it implemented for quite some time,” Butler said. “Originally, the Air Force and USFWS had to work things out to get me on the ground. I was in Washington, D.C. assisting them and getting prepared for USFWS to arrive at Joint Base MDL.”

With this new chapter for Butler and the USFWS, he admitted it will be a tough task with pressure on his shoulders to succeed. Regardless, he stated that what he does at Joint Base MDL can set his fellow officers up for success for decades to come.

“My ultimate goal is to get the program running and have it established, so in the years to come, it can flourish and be built upon,” Butler said. “In my mind, I want things to be done perfectly and to get this program off the ground. Maybe 20 years down the road, they can look back on how this program was started and done.”