In the past, resources were often managed with a species-by-species focus. One plant or animal would be harvested or protected with little regard for its relationship to, and the consequent impacts of those management practices on, the habitat or on other wildlife species. Gary Belew, Natural Resources Manager for the Directorate of Environmental Compliance and Management at Fort Carson, thinks there is a better way to do business: "With the Gap Analysis Program which we are developing here on Fort Carson, we hope to manage the resources under our stewardship on more of an ecosystem level, while at the same time undertaking specialized management practices when needed for sensitive species. The overall goal is to keep plant and animal species from being listed as threatened or endangered, thereby avoiding conflict with military mission."
A habitat approach to resource management is needed to address biodiversity and the necessity of maintaining viable populations of native species and their habitats. This is especially critical when dealing with threatened and endangered species. Many wildlife species require several different habitat types to fulfill their daily and seasonal needs. This underscores the need to think more comprehensively in wildlife management, by including the management of numerous adjoining habitats for individual species.
The issue is further complicated when dealing with property boundaries, by requiring several agencies to work cooperatively towards a common goal. As an example, a research project concerning peregrine falcons which nest west of Fort Carson but hunt on the installation involves the U.S. Army and the Colorado Air National Guard, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and Colorado College.
Bruce Rosenlund, Project Leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Colorado Fish and Wildlife Assistance Office, has been involved in several of these interagency research and management efforts. Roselund notes that: "....multi-agency cooperation and partnerships are essential in such projects, and result in situations where everyone wins, especially the resources".
Gap Analysis brings the people and the resources together. It does this through assessing soil and habitat types, and consequently predicting vegetative and wildlife species distributions.
When a certain species is absent from a "predicted area", it must be determined what requirements are missing from the environment which preclude that species from being present. It may then be possible to provide the missing elements to fill in the gap in the species' range. If the species' habitats and distribution cross property lines, other agencies, resource managers and landowners are brought on board in the management planning process.
In Fort Carson's case, once wildlife and plant species distributions, and their associated living requirements, are linked to habitats and those habitats mapped, military mission planning is facilitated through awareness and avoidance of sensitive areas and timeframes.
Through Gap Analysis and the cooperative efforts of these agencies and people, DECAM hopes to manage Fort Carson's natural resources in a more comprehensive manner; encouraging biodiversity and the maintenance of native species, and ultimately sustaining the military training mission.
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