Press Release
U.S. Army Fort Stewart Military Reservation Receives National Conservation Award

March 26, 2010

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Fort Stewart today received the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2009 Military Conservation Partner Award recognizing an extraordinary conservation partnership that, among other highlights, has seen the state's largest red-cockaded woodpecker population more than double in 15 years.

Rowan Gould, the Service's Acting Director, made the announcement at the 75th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Wisconsin, citing its bold conservation partnership that features enhancing growing red-cockaded woodpecker populations, supporting the recovery of nearly two dozen other threatened and endangered species, and promoting outdoor recreational opportunities to hunt, fish, and watch wildlife. Conservation work at Fort Stewart, located in southeastern Georgia, and the largest army installation eats of the Mississippi, is led by Thomas Fry, chief of the Army's Environmental and Natural Resources Division, and his staff.

“The Service is proud to honor Fort Stewart’s exceptional accomplishments in endangered species conservation and propagation, environmental education, and community outreach, ” Gould said. “Fort Stewart’s environmental program is extremely comprehensive. They do everything from contributing 254 juvenile red-cockaded woodpeckers to the Service’s translocation program to hosting an annual Kid’s Fishing Event. ”

The Military Conservation Partner Award, presented March 25, at the 75th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was created by the Service to recognize military installations making significant natural resource and wildlife conservation achievements through cooperative work with the Service, state, local, and other organizations. Such achievements may include the conservation, protection, and restoration of important habitat for migratory, endangered, native, and game species on military lands.

"Success always comes from good teamwork, ” said Colonel Kevin Milton, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Garrison Commander. “We've got great people doing the right things the right way every day, both on the Army side and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife side. ”

“The fact that this award recognizes the importance of partnership makes me especially proud, ” Milton said. “A lot of the stuff we're doing to promote red-cockaded woodpecker recovery and maintain a healthy longleaf ecosystem, things like prescribed burning and thinning out the smaller trees, those things also help provide a sustainable environment for our Soldiers to train in. It's win-win!"

The largest military installation in the eastern United States, Fort Stewart encompasses 280,000 acres, and is located along the Canoochee and Ogeechee Rivers. It supports and manages populations of more than 20 state and/or federally-protected species. Some endangered or threatened species on the base include the red-cockaded woodpecker, the eastern indigo snake, the flatwoods salamander, the wood stork, and the shortnose sturgeon.

Fort Stewart’s natural resources staff uses ecosystem management to accomplish their conservation goals. One of their greatest accomplishments has been the management of the installation’s red-cockaded woodpecker population and its longleaf pine habitat. In 1994, Fort Stewart had 157 active red-cockaded woodpecker groups; now, the base’s population of that endangered species is 330 active groups. Fort Stewart contributes juvenile woodpeckers to the Service’s translocation program, and these birds establish or augment other woodpecker populations on public or private lands.

By improving the red-cockaded woodpecker’s longleaf pine habitat, Fort Stewart also assisted several other rare species dependant on the longleaf ecosystem. Some of those include the Bachman’s sparrow, the Southeastern kestrel, southern hognose snake, the Florida pine snake, the gopher tortoise, and the striped newt.

Some of the other accomplishments of Fort Stewart’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division include:

· Supporting an outdoor recreation program with hunting, fishing, and opportunities for wildlife observation.

· Working with the Service and other organizations and groups to implement the 2008 Candidate Conservation Plan for the gopher tortoise on their lands.

· Partnering with the Service, the Nature Conservancy, the Georgia Land Trust, Trust for Public Land, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Georgia Department of Natural Resources to establish the Coastal Georgia Private Lands Initiative to conserve natural resources and limit encroachment on private lands adjacent to Fort Stewart, as part of the Army Compatible Use Buffer program.

· Partnering with the Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Canoochee Riverkeepers, and the Georgia Aquarium to form the Ogeechee River Shortnose Sturgeon Working Group (ORSSWG) to recover the Ogeechee River shortnose sturgeon population.

· Participating on the Service’s flatwoods salamander and red-cockaded woodpecker recovery teams.

· Assisting University of Georgia students on research projects involving eastern indigo snake habitat use and flatwoods salamander habitat use and breeding responses.

· Establishing a wetlands mitigation bank for the installation to mitigate for wetland impacts due to training and the construction and maintenance of ranges.

For more than 40 years, since the passing of the Sikes Act, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has worked in cooperation with the military to conserve fish and wildlife resources found on the 30 million acres of land owned and managed by the Department of Defense. These lands are invaluable to the survival of many important species.

In recent years, natural resource management on military installations has attained a greater significance with the Department of Defense, Congress, and the public, leading to the creation of integrated natural resource management plans (INRMPs) under the Sikes Act. In response, many military installations have accomplished exceptional conservation work using partnerships with agencies, including the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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