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Vandenberg receives conservation award

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- Vandenberg Air Force Base recently received the 2015 Military Conservation Partner Award for excellence and exceptional leadership in natural resource conservation, May 4.

"Vandenberg has more threatened and endangered species than any other property in the continental United States," said Rhys Evans, the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resources lead. "We have done some great projects recently, like the dune restoration at Surf Beach. We recently restored 50 acres of dunes. We also do other habitat restoration in conjunction with, and in support of, the military mission."

The military is obligated to follow the same standards as national parks, while maintaining mission effectiveness.

Working in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is critical for the preservation of the multitude of threatened species on base.

"We are charged by Congress to follow the same rules that the national park service does," Evans said. "We have to follow the endangered species act. We manage the military mission and support the command structure, but at the same time, we have to maintain the protection and recovery of endangered and threatened species. It's important for people to understand that the Air Force cares."

During the award ceremony, Col. Keith Balts, the 30th Space Wing commander, stressed the importance of good stewardship for the land.

"Whether we are launching rockets, doing minor construction projects, cleaning up unexploded ordinance, or someday even landing rockets back on our location, we are going to keep the environment in mind," Balts said. "We know we are just borrowing this land for a short time in its geological history, and we want to make sure we do that right."

Despite the challenges of maintaining an operational Air Force base, Vandenberg is setting the standard for conservation.

"Vandenberg is leading the way for proactive conservation efforts on military lands," said Alexandra Pitts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deputy regional director. "The base has supported threatened and endangered species recovery, actively leading and contributing to habitat restoration activities, and building the scientific foundation for future conservation projects on and off base."

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