Camp Ripley Environment
The 2018 winner of the Cultural Resources Management, Large Installation award is Camp Ripley, Minnesota Army National Guard. It recognizes efforts by large installations to promote effective cultural resources management through proactive stewardship of DoD’s extensive and rich heritage assets, including archaeological sites, cultural items, the historic built environment, and cultural landscapes. Through dynamic cultural resources management programs that partner with installation stakeholders, such as master planning, public works, and range management, DoD identifies and evaluates cultural resources that impact training, testing, and operational capabilities. This award also showcases successful partnerships with American Indian tribes and other historic preservation stakeholders to protect cultural resources in a manner that sustains mission readiness as responsible stewards of our collective heritage.
Camp Ripley is proud of its reputation of conserving and preserving its natural and cultural resources. The Environmental Office supports solider readiness through research, guidance and implementation of sustainable, environmentally responsible practices. With the increased operational tempo caused by the Global War on Terrorism more pressure has been placed on our training lands, the role of the Environmental Office has been critical in accommodating the military mission while mitigating the impact on our natural resources. Also, through environmental outreach thousands of visitors pass through the Camp Ripley Environmental office annually to witness their efforts and participate in a variety of field activities. Because Camp Ripley has excelled in its role as environmental stewards, these resources will be available for future generations.
Camp Ripley abounds with plant and animal life unique to central Minnesota. Surveys have identified 565 types of plants, 202 bird species, 41 species of fish, 107 types of aquatic invertebrates, 65 species of butterflies, 51 mammal species, 23 reptiles and amphibians, and 8 mussel species. Wildlife species of particular interest include the bald eagle, white-tailed deer, black bear, gray wolf and Blanding’s turtle. With a population of 20-25 deer per square mile and its potential for trophy deer, Camp Ripley has been nationally recognized as having an exceptionally healthy deer herd. The Department of Natural Resources began monitoring the deer population at Camp Ripley in 1954, the first year of the annual white-tail bow hunt. Several Camp Ripley hunting opportunities are offered annually including the Disabled American Veterans deer hunt (established in 1992).
Camp Ripley's environmental office enjoys the credit of many success stories, among the most notable concerning nuisance bear activity. In 1991, increased nuisance activity from black bears prompted a study to estimate the size of the bear population on the base and develop management recommendations for nuisance bears. The population was estimated at 20-25 bears, and it was found that over 90% of the nuisance activity was being caused by three bears. With improved understanding of the population and nuisance activity, Environmental staff were able to determine a suitable course of action to resolve the issue. Since the study there have been very few nuisance bear reports. Other successes include implementation of the Camp Ripley Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program and installation wide soil stabilization through proven erosion control measures and vegetation management practices, to include invasive species control. Camp Ripley also has some of the largest populations of red-headed woodpeckers, red-shouldered hawks, and Blanding’s turtles in the state. Current management efforts such as annually prescribed fire, retention of select mature forest stands, and wetland protection has a direct influence on the success of these populations.
The environmental office also conducts numerous ongoing studies, on wildlife and plants, to document the quality of wildlife habitat found at Camp Ripley and to investigate relationships between military activities and sensitive wildlife species. To date, these studies have demonstrated a high degree of compatibility between military activities and wildlife species. For example, while it has long been thought that gray wolves are sensitive wilderness dwellers unable to adapt to human activity, a radio telemetry study has found that the wolves breed and raise their young relatively close to centers of military activity and are in fact quite adaptable.
To help manage all of Camp Ripley's resources, a GIS (Geographic Information System) has been implemented on site. GIS helps answer questions for Camp Ripley staff such as where are appropriate locations for sustainable training sites, what areas on camp are protected because of historic value, what habitat types have radio collared wildlife been occupying, etc. Another useful aspect of Camp Ripley's GIS is the capability to create specific, professional map products customized for the immediate needs of customers and staff.
Camp Ripley substitutes as an environmental classroom for local schools and students. For many years, students from local schools have trekked to Camp Ripley to learn about protection and managing the environment. More recently students have had the opportunity to pair up with local staff and participate in daily work activities. The concept is popularly referred to as the "Shadow Program". Camp Ripley is also utilized by college and university students to gain experience through a variety of opportunities from access to data for analysis projects, to discipline specific hands-on experience, as well as Graduate-level research projects. These programs are designed to 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. What could be a better place to learn about the environment than a 53,000 acre laboratory?
Camp Ripley is proud of becoming a leader in our environmentally conscious community. Making constant use of updated technology combined with a caring, well-educated staff, has allowed Camp Ripley to maintain its excellence in environmental stewardship.
Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape and Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB)
Camp Ripley is now working with other partners as part of a Sentinel Landscape program through the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The Sentinel Landscape program is intended to augment the ACUB program by supporting working lands while promoting and protecting conservation practices and protecting the military mission; hence "Where Missions Meet."
In 2015, Camp Ripley, through state law, was designated as the first state Sentinel Landscape in the nation. The designation established a state coordinating committee in March. The group is comprised of State Commissioners from BWSR, the DNR, Minnesota Department of Military Affairs and Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MNDA). The Camp Ripley Environmental staff hosted a kick off meeting with federal and state partners on September 29, 2015 to begin the process of building partnerships, and to future define a committee and boundary of the new sentinel landscape. Currently DoD has a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior regarding the sentinel landscapes on a federal level. This has attracted other federal agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who envision enhancing their program priorities and interests that are complementary to the CRSL.
Camp Ripley competed for additional funding and sentinel landscape designation through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration challenge process through the DoD. Camp Ripley was designated a federal Sentinel Landscape on July 12, 2016.
The CRSL planning area is defined by approximately 40 sub-watersheds grouped in eight watershed management units within an approximate 10 mile radius from Camp Ripley. The total planning area encompasses 804,557 acres including 53,000 acres of Camp Ripley. This planning process is an outgrowth of Camp Ripley's ACUB program to limit future incompatible land uses around Camp Ripley. To achieve the program goals, all of the organizations involved have set specific goals for the CRSL; which are to protect Camp Ripley's military training mission, the DNR's wildlife management areas, BWSR watersheds, MNDA agriculture and that all the parties involved will be trying to focus their resources within an approximate 10 mile buffer of Camp Ripley.
The professionals working on the ACUB program recognized that multiple natural resource benefits will be achieved through the buffer program and future benefits could be achieved by expanding conservation efforts, particularly sustainable forestry and agriculture management. To leverage and expand on the conservation work being implemented as part of the ACUB program, as well as efforts on partner lands, the area for the CRSL was expanded from three miles to approximately a 10 mile boundary around Camp Ripley.
For additional information or enrollment into the Sentinel Landscape program, see the Resources section below or contact Josh Pennington (information on the side).