Camp Ripley earns top environmental award

By Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey
Camp Ripley Public Affairs

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. (April 27, 2017) The Department of Defense announced that Camp Ripley was selected as the winner of the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation.

The awards recognize individuals, teams and installations for their exceptional environmental achievements and innovative, cost-effective environmental practices.

“The winners’ efforts strengthen the Department of Defense’s position as a resourceful environmental steward, both at home and abroad, and demonstrate our continued commitment to fulfilling mission needs through advanced environmental practices and technologies,” stated James A. MacStravic, performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Established in 1962, the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards recognize outstanding environmental practices that not only protect the environment, promote efficiency, and improve quality of life, but also support mission readiness. Each year, the Department of Defense selects individuals, teams, and installations that stand out in their ability to achieve these sometimes competing objectives. These awards promote the use of secure and renewable energy sources; development and implementation of innovative technologies that eliminate waste; reclamation of key water resources; and protection of our nation’s irreplaceable natural and cultural heritage.

In 2017, the department selected nine winners from a total of 30 nominees in categories such as: Sustainability, Cultural Resources Management and Environmental Quality. The category of Natural Resources Conservation for a Large Installation went to Camp Ripley and the Minnesota National Guard for the achievement of key natural resources conservation goals through strategic partnerships and successful wildlife and land management.

Partnerships involved the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Natural Resources, Board of Water and Soil Resources, U.S. Department of Agriculture, St. Cloud State University, Central Lakes College, The Nature Conservancy, Land use Groups and Soil & Water Conservation Districts.

“Awards like this are not won by one individual, this award really showcases the success of partnerships, partners ranging from federal agencies like the USFWS and NRCS to state departments of DNR, BWSR, and AG; Student support from SCSU and CLC; nonprofits like TNC to efforts from LUGs such as the SWCDs from Morrison and Crow Wing counties. Together we can accomplish some great things, and winning this award at the DoD level really validates the success of these partnerships,” said Jay Brezinka, state environmental program manager.

Each year, the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations & Environment) submits a call for nominations and each military service and defense agency may submit one nomination for each of the nine categories that cover six subject areas: natural resources conservation; environmental quality; sustainability; environmental restoration; cultural resources management; and environmental excellence in weapon system acquisition.

In doing so, the department celebrates military service members and civilians for their commitments to protect human health and the environment as well as maintain and restore America’s natural resources and cultural heritage for future generations while also addressing complex national security challenges.

Camp Ripley’s environmental programs for both conservation and compliance continues to maintain the triple bottom line of mission, environment and community, through partnership opportunities, forestry and wildlife management as well as community outreach.

In July of 2016 Camp Ripley was federally recognized as a Sentinel Landscape, which is a conservation and encroachment effort that builds off of the Department of Defense’s Army Compatible Use Buffer program, partnering State and Federal agencies aimed to conserve natural habitat, maintain landscapes that contribute to national defense and prevent incompatible development that would inhibit military training.

For many years, college and university students have utilized the opportunity to pair up with Environmental staff and participate in daily work activities. The concept mutually benefits Camp Ripley and the students by gaining experiences through a variety of opportunities.

Graduate-level research projects with discipline specific hands-on experience and project analysis give students real life, on-the-job experience in a field that is interesting to them. It exposes the students to activities that cannot be simulated in a traditional classroom setting.

“Our mission is to complement and support the military mission of the Camp Ripley Training Site by promoting sound natural resource stewardship principles,” said Josh Pennington, environmental supervisor.

Through the efforts of the Environmental Office and partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Camp Ripley once again earned a win in the fields of natural and cultural resource management. The triple bottom-line of Environment, Community and Mission, led to the construction of the 10-megawatt solar field in conjunction with Minnesota power. This venture will help Camp Ripley work toward its goal of becoming a Net Zero installation in the next several years.

Additionally for the National Guard under the category of Cultural Resources Management, Individual/Team the CRM Team of the Alabama Army National Guard collaborated with the Geographic Information Systems program to design and implement a cohesive integrated management tool for cultural resources management project planning across their installations.

Camp Ripley earns environmental award