Fort Stewart recently 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 Milwaukee, Wisc., citing the post’s 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, the largest Army installation east 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 Thursday at the conference, 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 habitats for migratory, endangered, native and game species on military lands.
"Success always comes from good teamwork," said Col. 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. 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."
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 conservation goals. One of the post’s 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, there are 330 active groups. Fort Stewart contributes juvenile woodpeckers to the service’s translocation program and the birds establish or augment other woodpecker populations on public or private lands.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, go to www.fws.gov or www.fws.gov/southeast.