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The Air Force Academy's Natural Resources Office, which manages forests and wildlife on the 18,500-acre installation, was selected as the winner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Military Conservation Partner Award winner on March 1, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
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Natural Resources Office wins national conservation award

Posted 3/16/2012   Updated 3/16/2012 Email story   Print story


by Amber Baillie
Academy Spirit staff writer

3/16/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy's Natural Resources Office was selected as the winner of the 2011 National Military Conservation Partner Award March 1 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The award will be presented twice in Atlanta, first at the National Military Fish and Wildlife Association's general session on March 13 and again at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and USFWS director's reception March 15.

The annual award was created by the Fisheries and Habitat Conservation program in 2004 to acknowledge a military installation for their outstanding accomplishments to promote conservation on military lands.

The award covers all aspects of conservation and natural resource management, said Brian Mihlbachler, the Fish and Wildlife Service's natural resources manager here. Highlights of the Academy's Natural Resources Office include its forest program, forestry management, mountain pine beetle control and Preble's Meadow jumping mouse conservation.

The Pueblo Chemical Depot, Umatilla Chemical Depot and natural resource programs at Fort Carson and the Academy are military installations administered from the Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation office in Denver. The office selects military partners to nominate for the award and chose the Academy.

"It's kind of unique that since 2004 there have been three programs that have won the award coming out of that office," Mihlbachler said. "At least eight (local offices) competed for this year's award, not to mention Kansas, Nebraska and North and South Dakota."

The Academy has been nominated for the regional award almost every year but has never received the national award. The Fish and Wildlife Service's Washington office and regional Sikes Act coordinators reviewed the 2011 installation nominees and selected the Academy.

"We're all about conserving and enhancing the natural resources here," Mihlbachler said. "We're trying to do that not only to meet (Defense Department) guidelines but also in basic support of the military mission."

Mihlbachler said that their work at the Academy is long-term management, so that cadets in the future can have the same land size and conditions available for training as cadets do today.

"Ultimately, the land base here is a resource for military training outside of educational training: for things like Jacks Valley training, orienteering, survival training or whatever else cadets are doing," Mihlbachler said. "Our mission is to try and maintain some continuity in terms of the quality of environment out here, not only for the natural resource perspective but also the mission support perspective."

The North American Wildlife and Natural Conference takes place in Atlanta March 12-17. Mihlbachler said the conference is a high-level meeting with agency heads, program managers, budgeters and non-governmental organizations.

"It's an opportunity for people to get together and talk at a higher level about policy and what's going on with natural resources management," he added.

Mihlbachler said it's great to receive the award and input from active-duty personnel, retirees and residents on base who appreciate the environment at the Academy.

"It's kind of a unique opportunity where you've got the training resource, the university aspect of this area as well as open space that provides a lot of good habitat for wildlife, wildlife viewing opportunities and opportunities for outdoor recreation," Mihlbachler said. "It's gratifying to be recognized for being a part of maintaining an available resource on the Academy."

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