News Release

June 25, 2012

U.S. Air Force Academy Recognized for Conservation Excellence by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Media Contacts:
Kim Betton, (703) 358-2081

The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado is the recipient of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2012 Military Conservation Partner Award, in recognition of the Academy's sustained excellence in natural resource conservation. The Service's Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation, Bryan Arroyo, presented the award to Col. Thomas L. Gibson, Commander of the 10th Air Base Wing. Col. Gibson was also recognized individually for his conservation leadership.

Between 2006 and 2011, the Academy's conservation initiatives led the Service to consistently rank it among the top five installations that were nominated for the award. No other military installation has ever received such consistently high rankings for this prestigious recognition.

"The Academy, supported by the 10th Air Base Wing, has been an exemplary partner in conserving the diverse fish and wildlife populations on their 20,000-acre campus, while taking significant steps to expand hunting and fishing opportunities," said Service Director Dan Ashe. "The Service is honored to partner with the academy and many other installations across the nation to implement conservation that is consistent with military readiness."

Over the past five years, the Academy has partnered with the Service, Colorado Division of Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations to address challenging natural resource management issues such as improving conditions for the threatened Preble's jumping mouse. The Academy developed a strong partnership with the Service to significantly reduce wildland fuel hazards and implement stream restoration efforts that have improved water quality and fish habitat. The Academy reacted quickly to stem a mountain pine beetle epidemic, resulting in a 96 percent decrease in beetle populations since the height of the outbreak. In 2009, the Academy received the Tree City USA Growth Award for making exceptional progress in urban tree inventory, and hosting an educational tree care workshop.

"The Military Partnership Award is a tremendous achievement and reflects the outstanding teamwork of Natural Resources Managers Brian S. Mihlbachler, Ph.D. and Diane Strohm and their Natural Resources team," said Lt Col Mark A. Russo, Commander, 10th Civil Engineer Squadron, U.S. Air Force Academy. "This accomplishment is the work of partnerships committed to preserving and improving the Air Force Academy's natural resources each and every day. We are very happy to have received this recognition."

Situated on the boundary between the Southern Rockies and Great Plains ecosystems, the Air Force Academy is an island of biodiversity in an area where habitat is rapidly being lost to development. It also serves as an important migration corridor for mule and white-tailed deer, American elk, black bear, mountain lion and wild turkey. Lakes and streams on the installation support diverse fish and waterbird communities.

The Academy's use of landscape-scale planning and strategic habitat conservation represents an innovative model for other military installations facing habitat degradation and urban encroachment. Due to the habitat diversity found on the installation and the Academy's determined efforts, there are many more native wildlife species on the Academy than could be expected, especially given its size and proximity to an urban center. For example, 247 bird species and 70 mammal species can be found on the Academy.

Beginning in 1960 with passage of the Sikes Act, which encourages conservation on military lands, the Fish and Wildlife Service has worked in close cooperation with each branch of the military to improve land stewardship and conserve wildlife. These partnerships have served as catalysts for significant conservation efforts on the 30 million-acre landscape managed by the Department of Defense.