Military partner

As part of their species monitoring efforts, Travel Air Force Base personnel install silt fencing and pitfall traps to reroute California tiger salamanders away from the runway. Courtesy Photo: Kirsten Christopherson/U.S. Air Force

As part of their species monitoring efforts, Travis Air Force Base personnel install silt fencing and pitfall traps to reroute California tiger salamanders away from the runway. Courtesy Photo: Kirsten Christopherson/U.S. Air Force

[Note: Veterans Day, November 11, is the one day set aside each year to honor those who have served and continue to serve our nation. Not to be confused with Memorial Day, the day we pay tribute to fallen service members, Veterans Day offers a great opportunity to learn about the sacrifice service members and their families make year-round. The Pacific Southwest Region, in thanking our military partners for their work in conservation, will be featuring stories about conservation on military installations in our region during the month of November.]

Travis Air Force Base puts #NoBounds on endangered species protection

By Veronica Davison
November 13, 2018

Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, California, is home to the largest airlift organization in the Air Force. As a major strategic logistics hub with global impact, the base is critical to the overall mission of the total force. One strategic project the base is committed to is its Environmental Management System, which includes protection of threatened and endangered species.

The base has made a significant contribution to species recovery by using grazing as a land management tool, conducting long-term demographic studies, monitoring species and educating the public. In fact, its natural resources management team maintains survey maps that illustrate each location where threatened and endangered species have been found on the base, including vernal pool fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp, Contra Costa goldfields and California tiger salamander.

The Sacramento office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works closely with the natural resources management team, providing guidance and approval for base projects that impact habitat used by the at-risk species. Wetlands in California are extremely limited, which can negatively impact a variety of species, like California tiger salamander, that depend on a wetland ecosystem for survival. The base offers ideal habitat because it is surrounded by 17 ponds that the salamander uses for breeding before returning to underground burrows where they spend most of their life.

Threatened California tiger salamander crossing the runway at Travis Air Force Base.  Courtesy Photo: Kirsten Christopherson/U.S. Air Force

Threatened California tiger salamander crossing the runway at Travis Air Force Base. Courtesy Photo: Kirsten Christopherson/U.S. Air Force

The natural resources management team has observed the California tiger salamander traveling more than a half-mile from a breeding pond to a burrow in upland habitat on the base; but, the species has been documented to travel over a mile when moving from a breeding pond to appropriate upland habitat at other locations.

In 2017, a year with high rainfall, the salamander attempted to cross a runway where military aircraft takeoff and land daily. The team has put measures in place to monitor the species and to avoid impacts that could threaten their survival and prevent aircraft from flying safely.

Personnel use dipnets to check breeding ponds for larvae. This identifies which ponds are used for breeding each season, larvae development and pond water levels. Recently, the team installed silt fencing to help guide the California tiger salamander to safe upland habitat, while avoiding the runway.

Conserving the population of California tiger salamander on the base benefits other wetland-and grassland-dependent animal and plant species. The hard work personnel have put into their environmental management projects shows that the #nobounds hashtag frequently used in their social media posts not only applies to their military mission, but also their mission to protect at-risk species.