THE INSTALLATION OF THE FUTURE: FORT BUCHANAN SETS ITS SIGHTS ON LONG-TERM PLANNING

by Jonelle Kimbrough, Strategic Communicator
Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico has a rich and storied history. Its relationship with the United States Army dates to the Spanish-American War with the creation of the Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry, commanded by Brigadier General James Anderson Buchanan. In the last century, the site has evolved from a training camp into an Army Reserve-funded installation that is home to 59 Department of Defense Reserve units and over 26,000 Soldiers, Civilians and Family members. To ensure its mission resilience, Fort Buchanan is planning for the future with Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning.

Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning is a long-term, holistic process that bolsters an installation’s extant planning efforts. The process results in a strategic plan that supports current and future mission requirements; safeguards human health, improves quality-of-life; and enhances the natural environment. Most installation strategic plans cover three to five years, but Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning covers 20 to 25 years and incorporates elements such as energy and water security; solid waste management; and sustainable development.

Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning was first implemented in the Army at
Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2000. Numerous installations, National Guard sites and community organizations in the United States, Europe and the Pacific have since instituted the process. Fort Hunter Liggett and Parks Reserve Forces Training Area, California were the first Army Reserve-funded installations to complete the process in the summer of 2018.

Fort Buchanan is a perfect candidate to pursue Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning because the post continually strives to improve its operations, services and resilience. “The Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate is pleased to have Fort Buchanan serve as one of the pilot sites for Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning because we know that its commitment to excellence will only strengthen the program’s benefits for the entire Command,” said Heather Brown, Army Reserve
Strategic Readiness Team Lead. “Fort Buchanan’s collaboration and comprehensive evaluation of each step in the process will allow the Army Reserve to develop the best possible path forward as it relates to strategic planning for our installations, Readiness Divisions and Mission Support Command.”

The Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate and Fort Buchanan have cultivated Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning efforts since June 2018. Senior leaders including Robert Maxwell, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Resource Management and Materiel for the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve, and Major
General Scottie D. Carpenter, Deputy Commanding General of the Army Reserve, have participated in planning sessions. Stakeholders throughout Puerto Rico and federal agencies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency have been involved in the process, as well.

Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning will focus on Fort Buchanan’s challenges and threats, such as natural disasters and financial constraints. At the same time, the process will accentuate the installation’s strengths, such as its modernized infrastructure and bilingual workforce.

According to Colonel Guy D. Bass, Fort Buchanan Garrison Commander, secure resources and accessible assets translate into continued resilience for a post on a rather isolated island. “The unique geographical location of the installation, being ‘an island within an island,’ impacts our existing mission readiness capabilities that require resources away from the United States mainland and affects our response time to support our potential customers – both [in the] Department of Defense and [outside of the] Department of Defense – located on and off post,” explained Colonel Bass. “Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning will assist Fort Buchanan by defining its needs, missions, customers and requirements that will help sustain the installation for years to come.”

Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning will thoroughly address Fort Buchanan’s four long-term priorities, identified at the installation’s Long-Term Priority Setting Session in October 2018: 1) a world-class training complex, 2) high-performance sustainable facilities, 3) an organization of choice and 4) mutually beneficial strategic partnerships. A world-class training complex will meet current and future military training requirements. High-performance sustainable facilities will fulfill mission and readiness requirements with the energy, water and fuel capacity to sustain continuous operations for at least 30 days. An organization of choice will promote a healthy, resilient and ethical workforce and encourage the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of its team members. Finally, mutually beneficial strategic partnerships between Fort Buchanan, federal entities and community agencies will build on a shared culture of pride and trust to support responsible resource use throughout the region.

Fort Buchanan’s resulting Strategic Sustainability Plan will map a long-term planning horizon; engage key stakeholders; create a culture of sustainability; establish a system of governance; track short-term, measurable action plans; and identify resources. By the end of the year, the post will have a well-developed vision for its future: “a resilient installation that will synchronize all available resources such as its workforce, infrastructure, land and energy security,” said Colonel Bass.

“My hope for Fort Buchanan, as a result of participating in the Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning process, is that it has a plan that speaks specifically to its needs and challenges,” Brown added. “By identifying long-term visions and developing measurable action plans to meet its goals, every step along the way is a step towards a more resilient Fort Buchanan.”

“Ultimately, Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning will maintain Fort Buchanan’s relevance; bolster their ability to adapt and respond to challenges; and create conservation-minded Soldiers, Civilians and Families that comprise a truly resilient force,” said Paul Wirt, Chief of the Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate’s Sustainment and Resiliency Division. “The process will also garner support for sustainability efforts at all levels of the Army Reserve and its communities, and it will increase our success in implementing sustainable practices Command-wide.” Wirt noted that Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning supports the Army Triple Bottom Line of Mission, Environment and Community, as well as the Army Communities of Excellence program.

Fort Buchanan has some unique challenges, but the installation’s ambitious goals, innovative programs and engaged residents secure its status as a model of readiness and resilience for the Army Reserve. The best, though, is yet to come. The entire region is ready to guide the future of the installation, and they are eager to see the fruits of their labor. Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning ensures that Fort Buchanan will be the “Sentinel of the Caribbean” for another century of successful service.

ARMY RESERVE COMMAND TO HOST ARBOR DAY CELEBRATION

Maple Leaf

The United States Army Reserve Command will host its first headquarters-level Arbor Day Celebration on Friday, March 16 at 10 a.m. at Marshall Hall, Fort Bragg.

Arbor Day was established in 1872, when journalist J. Sterling Morton and thousands of pioneers in the Nebraska Territory planted one million trees. Today, Arbor Day is observed across the world.

For the Army Reserve, Arbor Day is an opportunity to publicly solidify the enterprise’s role as a leading steward of the environment. Environmental health is vital to mission readiness and resilience, as our natural world provides land on which to train our Soldiers, construct our facilities and maintain our operations. The future availability, accessibility and viability of land is critical to the Army Reserve, and the Command is committed to protecting and preserving that land – and other natural resources – for generations of our warfighters, Civilians and Families today, tomorrow and forever.

Major General Scottie D. Carpenter, Deputy Commanding General of the Army Reserve, and the Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate will host the event with the reading of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Arbor Day Proclamation and the planting of a maple tree on the Marshall Hall campus.

Everyone is welcome to attend the event.

ARMY RESERVE SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS BRANCH DELIVERS ANNUAL COMMAND BRIEF

Story by Jonelle Kimbrough, Strategic Communicator
Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

The United States Army Reserve Sustainability Programs Branch delivered their annual command brief to Mr. Jordan Gillis, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment, on February 14, 2018.

The presentation covered the Army Reserve’s accomplishments in energy, water, solid waste management and environmental quality in fiscal year 2017 and defined a “path forward” for the future. Featured projects included Integrated Strategic and Sustainability Planning, energy and water security investments, and awareness initiatives.

The brief lauded the Command’s achievements. Notably, the enterprise achieved a 17.7 percent reduction in energy use intensity in fiscal year 2017, compared to the fiscal year 2015 baseline. The reduction translates into a cost avoidance of over $6 million, or the cost of nine named training missions. The Army Reserve has also reduced its water use intensity by 43 percent, compared to the 2007 baseline.

According to Paul Wirt, Chief of the Army Reserve Sustainability Programs Branch, the Command’s sustainability initiatives have been successful because the Army Reserve focuses on “true” sustainability. “The Army Reserve maintains comprehensive and integrated strategies for every program through execution plans that establish a systematic, deliberate path to success,” he explained. Wirt also praised a dedicated staff and an engaged field, referring to their “passion and commitment to make the Army Reserve the very best it can be.”

In the years to come, readiness and mission resilience will be the primary focus of Army Reserve sustainability efforts. Wirt sees the future as an opportunity to incorporate sustainable practices holistically across the entire Command. “We want to achieve a conservation mindset, reduce consumption, increase cost avoidance, harness new technology, meet Federal reduction standards and become Net Zero wherever possible,” Wirt said.  “But, our top priority is to posture our critical facilities for energy and water security and independence. Ultimately, we need to operate for long periods of time – if not indefinitely – off the grid so that the Army Reserve can best mobilize, train and deploy our nation’s fighting force today, tomorrow and forever.”

Megaphone

63RD, 88TH READINESS DIVISIONS UP FOR FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AWARDS

Story by Birgitte Dodd, Sustainability Strategist
Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

The Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate supported nominations for the Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards from the 63rd and 88th Readiness Divisions.

The 88th Readiness Division submitted a nomination in the category of Environmental Quality, Individual or Team. The nomination described how the 88th Readiness Division’s Environmental Training Team mitigates environmental risk by providing preventative training and unit-level interaction across over 300 Army Reserve facilities in 19 states. The Team focuses to ensure environmental compliance at every facility, promote overall environmental awareness and provide emphasis on critical focus areas of the command.

The 63rd Readiness Division submitted a nomination in the category of Environmental Quality, Non-Industrial Installation. The nomination highlighted the robust environmental program at the 63rd Readiness Division and its dedicated, skilled and experienced professionals, who engage in a spectrum of practices that support sustainable operations.

The Division also submitted an award nomination for Natural Resources Conservation, Individual or Team. The nomination showcased impressive accomplishments from the Natural Resources Team that have contributed to the continued protection of endangered species. Most notably, efforts led to the conservation of rare plants, including the federally listed, endangered Monterey Spineflower and the state listed, rare Sandmat Manzanita and Wedgeleaf Horkelia.

Winners of the Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards will compete at the Secretary of Defense level in early 2018.

THE BUZZ: ARMY RESERVE RECEIVES FUNDING FOR POLLINATOR PROJECTS

Story by Jonelle Kimbrough, Strategic Communicator
Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

The United States Army Reserve has received two National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) Department of Defense Legacy Grants to install and enhance pollinator habitats at two Installations on National Public Lands Day.

The Office of the Chief of Army Reserve (OCAR) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia received $3,500 to install pollinator gardens at Truman Hall. This year’s grant is the first NEEF grant for OCAR.

The United States Army Reserve Command (USARC) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina received $4,500 to enhance habitat at Marshall Hall’s pollinator gardens. Last year, USARC received its first NEEF grant for $4,000 to install the gardens.

The projects will occur in late September and early October in observance of National Public Lands Day on September 30. Observed annually on the last Saturday in September, National Public Lands Day is one of the nation’s leading volunteer efforts. Thousands of National Public Lands Day events across the country present opportunities for Americans to connect with their communities and practice environmental stewardship.

Army Reserve Sustainability Programs will facilitate the projects.

“Bees, bats, butterflies and other pollinators are critical to our ecology,” said Heather Brown, Senior Sustainability Advisor for Army Reserve Sustainability Programs. Many of our crops are dependent on pollination, but pollinator populations are declining throughout the world due to factors such as pesticide use and habitat loss. “As a leading steward of our environment, the Army Reserve is proud to participate in an effort to enhance pollinator habitat and attract pollinators to our Installations,” said Brown. “The gardens are a place for our Soldiers and Civilians to rest and reflect. And, National Public Lands Day gives our volunteers a hands-on opportunity to share our successes.”

“We were honored to receive our first National Environmental Education Foundation grant last year, and this year, we are excited to further our efforts to enhance natural resources across the Army Reserve,” said Paul Wirt, Chief of Army Reserve Sustainability Programs. “National Public Lands Day establishes valuable partnerships with advocates for sustainability at many levels – from the volunteers who lend their hands to build these habitats, to the Soldiers who enjoy these gardens, to the agencies that support these projects. National Public Lands Day is a great opportunity to educate our communities about all of our sustainability initiatives, and we hope that we can contribute to this event and to the protection of our pollinators for years to come.”

See photos from the National Public Lands Day events on Flickr!

ONCE UPON A FOREST: FORT BUCHANAN PROTECTS THE PALO DE ROSA

Story by Jonelle Kimbrough, Strategic Communicator
Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

Victor Rodriguez Cruz braved an imminent storm to reach the pinnacle of a limestone hill, where a Palo de Rosa emerged from the Earth. Just beyond the tree, he peered at a valley where a bustling city on San Juan Bay had all but erased a once pristine, wild forest. “When a tree is lost, it is lost forever,” he said as he admired the Palo de Rosa’s verdant, glistening leaves.

Rodriguez Cruz manages the Natural Resources Conservation Program at Fort Buchanan, a United States Army Reserve-funded Installation near San Juan, Puerto Rico. In his role with the Directorate of Public Works’ Environmental Division, he leads the charge to protect the Palo de Rosa – one of the island’s most endangered trees.

Named for the distinctive red hue of its heartwood, the Palo de Rosa is indigenous to the limestone hills, or “mogotes,” of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Palo de Rosa to be endangered in March of 1990, when only nine trees remained in the forests of Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez Cruz pointed to a resilient tree. “They grow only on the tops of these mogotes. Is that their preference, or are those populations the only populations that are left?” he asked.

Under the canopy, he chronicled the rather somber history and unusual biology of the Palo de Rosa.

Its decline, he said, could be attributed to many factors.

Deforestation and urban encroachment have decimated the Palo de Rosa’s natural habitat.

In addition, the Palo de Rosa’s reproduction cycles are erratic, at best. Biological studies indicate that the tree may be a “mast flowering” species, or one that produces an abundance of fruits in some seasons but no fruits in other seasons.

Seed dispersal is also a challenge for the Palo de Rosa. The Palo de Rosa may be an “outcrossing” species, requiring the cross pollination of individual trees. Since its populations are so limited, the pollination process could be very difficult. Furthermore, the fruits of the Palo de Rosa resemble the fruits of trees pollinated and dispersed by bats. Any absence of bats, or other pollinators, could have contributed to the tree’s demise.

Fort Buchanan is one of the few places on Puerto Rico where the Palo de Rosa thrives today. Still, only 12 Palos de Rosa live on Fort Buchanan. According to Rodriguez Cruz, the trees at the Installation are some of the only trees on the island that are currently producing viable seeds.

Fort Buchanan, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources hope that these seeds are seeds of change.

In 2009, a Memorandum of Agreement between Fort Buchanan, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources  incorporated provisions for the protection of the Palo de Rosa into the Installation’s land use management plans.

The Fish and Wildlife Service uses Fort Buchanan’s trees to collect seeds to propagate the Palo de Rosa, enhance the Installation’s population and introduce them to other viable areas of the island. The Service also visits Fort Buchanan annually to monitor the health of the trees.

Fort Buchanan’s Directorate of Public Works has implemented numerous conservation measures as well. Reforestation has improved the environment for the Palo de Rosa and the post’s other endangered species, the Puerto Rican boa. The Directorate restricts access to the Palo de Rosa’s habitat, evidenced by prolific gold signs that relay a message of caution to Fort Buchanan’s residents. If necessary, the Installation limits the scope of military activity in those areas. They have eliminated the use of herbicides near the habitat. In addition, Rodriguez Cruz and his colleagues consistently educate Soldiers, Civilians and Families about their Installation’s unique tree.

Rodriguez Cruz crouched in the leaf litter to assess a tree’s roots. “Ultimately, we want to recover the populations of the Palo de Rosa so that the Fish and Wildlife Service can remove the tree from the Endangered Species List,” he remarked.

The loss of any tree would impact the survival of the Palo de Rosa, but Rodriguez Cruz believes that the loss of the species could broadly impact the culture of Puerto Rico.

“The Palo de Rosa is endemic only to the Caribbean, so the tree is a significant part of our natural heritage in Puerto Rico,” said Rodriguez Cruz. “Our natural heritage encourages tourism to our island, supports our economy and inspires our art.”

“Our flora could benefit us,” he continued, placing his hand on his chest. “Cures for cancers could be in these forests.”

Rodriguez Cruz regarded the Palo de Rosa once more. Then, he descended the mogote with the company of hummingbirds and lizards. He recounted Fort Buchanan’s important role in the protection of Puerto Rico’s special natural resources. In his voice, hope resonated – the hope that the Palo de Rosa will flourish with the spirit of the past and the hope that the Army Reserve can contribute to its future.

ARTICLE CONTRIBUTORS

Heather Brown, Army Reserve Sustainability Programs
Jonelle Kimbrough, Army Reserve Sustainability Programs
Victor Rodriguez Cruz, Fort Buchanan Directorate of Public Works – Environmental Division

ARMY RESERVE ENVIRONMENTAL STRATEGY SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED

Story by Jonelle Kimbrough, Strategic Communicator
Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

Major General Peter Lennon, United States Army Reserve Deputy Commanding General (Support), has signed the Army Reserve Environmental Quality Implementation Strategy and the Army Reserve Environmental Quality Policy.

The documents solidify the Army Reserve’s commitment to environmental stewardship with four strategic goals: to conserve natural and cultural resources; to ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations; to prevent pollution of land, air and water resources; and to strengthen an integrated Environmental Quality Program foundation.

The strategy and policy also bolster Command support of sustainability objectives that will ensure continued readiness. Furthermore, they encourage Soldiers, Civilians and Families at all levels of the Army Reserve and its surrounding communities to foster a conservation minded culture.

“The execution of these guiding documents will serve to strengthen the Army Reserve’s ability to sustain the environmental quality of our land, air, water, and natural and cultural resources and therefore ensure the resiliency of our Installations and facilities across the Army Reserve,” said Paul Wirt, Chief of the Army Reserve Sustainability Programs Branch, which is a part of the Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate.

All four of the Army Reserve sustainability programs – energy, water, solid waste and environmental quality – now have signed implementation strategies.

The Army Reserve relies on dependable energy, clean water, accessible land and viable air to fulfill its role as a capable and resilient defense force, as well as its role as a good neighbor. “Sustainability enhances our readiness and resiliency for the mission and warfighters of today as well as the mission and warfighters of tomorrow,” said Wirt. “Sustainability allows us to adapt to constantly evolving military objectives, maintain our relevance, allocate our resources efficiently and reduce our environmental impacts.”

“Army Reserve leadership support for sustainability has been tremendous,” Wirt continued. “Such support lends invaluable credibility to our programs and will further the Army Reserve’s position as a pioneering leader in the Department of Defense. While there is still much to do going forward, our entire team is proud of the accomplishments we have achieved so far in establishing a solid foundation of culture change in the Army Reserve.”

FOR THE SAKE OF THE SNAKE: FORT BUCHANAN PROTECTS PUERTO RICAN BOA

Story by Jonelle Kimbrough, Strategic Communicator
Army Reserve Installation Management Directorate

Actor Nicolas Cage once quipped, “Every great story seems to begin with a snake.”

At Fort Buchanan, the story of wildlife conservation begins with the Puerto Rican boa.

The Caribbean Islands host some of the most biologically critical and diverse snakes on Earth. The Puerto Rican boa, also known as Epicrates inornatus, is important to the environment and natural heritage of Puerto Rico. However, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has listed the snake as endangered since 1970.

Fortunately for the boa, the United States Army Reserve “has its six.” Fort Buchanan – an Army Reserve-funded installation near San Juan – is leading the charge for its protection.

The Puerto Rican boa is crucial in its habitat, the lush forests of limestone hills called mogotes. Adult snakes prey on pests such as rats and invasive reptiles such as green iguanas. Boas are vital components of the food chains of island birds including the Puerto Rican lizard cuckoo and red-tailed hawk.

As necessary as it is to the island’s ecological balance, the Puerto Rican boa is vulnerable to some formidable threats.

Introduced, non-native animals such as mongooses and other snakes are competing with the boa for habitat and food. In some cases, the interlopers are turning Puerto Rican boas into meals.

Deforestation, urban encroachment and pollution have damaged the boa’s environment. As an island species, habitat loss is especially troubling for the snake. Quite simply, they have no other place to go. “Its limited geographical distribution makes the Puerto Rican boa prone to extirpation by any change created by humans or natural causes,” said Victor Rodriguez-Cruz, an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) at Fort Buchanan.

Furthermore, poaching has contributed to the boa’s decline. Hunters have coveted the snake for its meat and skin. As early as the 1700s, Puerto Rico exported the oil from the snake’s fat as a major commodity. “[The boa was] hunted and killed due to the belief that snake oil provided relief for aching joints,” Rodriguez-Cruz explained.

If the boa faced extinction, the biological diversity on Puerto Rico would be imperiled. Natural cycles would be disrupted, and the environment would certainly suffer. Nevertheless, the people of Fort Buchanan are working to ensure a hopeful future for the snake.

Initiated in 2013 and guided by a Memorandum of Understanding with the USFWS, Fort Buchanan’s comprehensive, ambitious boa program includes the management of both the species and the land on which it lives. The Installation’s DPW and its partner agencies are capturing, measuring and tagging boas, and they are performing other monitoring activities that help wildlife biologists determine boa populations, activity patterns and habitat uses. They are also enhancing the boa’s environment through reforestation and native plant restoration initiatives.

Innovative projects are driving boa conservation forward.

For instance, Fort Buchanan is investigating the use of an advanced technology called a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag to study the boa. A PIT tag for a boa is similar to a microchip for a dog. It is essentially a “barcode” for an individual animal that can electronically transmit information on snake growth, migration and survivorship to the biologists participating in the studies.

Also, the Department of Defense Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) recently issued a grant to the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Research and Development Center Laboratory to examine “soft release” for snakes that require translocation at Fort Buchanan. According to Rodriguez-Cruz, Puerto Rican boas have very cryptic habits. People rarely see them, but they occasionally venture into urban areas. Wildlife biologists must translocate the wayward snakes. With the soft release method, biologists capture boas in urban areas and move them to designated forests. There, the boas briefly live in man-made pens prior to their full release into the wild. Soft release allows the snakes to gradually acclimate to the forests and thus raises their probabilities for success. Rodriguez-Cruz said that the ESTCP project has the potential to increase the effectiveness of capture and translocation efforts and to reduce snake-human encounters. The Installation could also benefit financially since the ESTCP grant would cover all expenses associated with the soft release demonstration.

Outreach and awareness are essential components of Fort Buchanan’s boa conservation program, too. “By educating the public, we are eliminating a lot of misconceptions about snakes in general and especially the boa,” said Rodriguez-Cruz. The Installation is identifying snake habitat with signage, encouraging its residents to report boa sightings, and training contractors who work on the post on boa protection procedures – to name only a few of the efforts.

Committed to the protection of its largest indigenous snake, Fort Buchanan serves as an example of conservation to the Caribbean as well as to the entire Army Reserve and active Army, both of which play a critical role in the stewardship of our military’s lands and the world’s precious natural resources.  “What we do inside of the Installation for Puerto Rican boa conservation, if deemed efficient, can be useful to the management of the snake outside of the Installation,” Rodriguez-Cruz said.

The environmentally essential Puerto Rican boa has managed to survive despite the forces that jeopardize its very existence. With the Army Reserve in its corner, the snake now has the chance to thrive, and its story will be great for generations to come.

puerto-rican-boa_oliveras

Photo by Eneilis Mulero Oliveras, Fort Buchanan Directorate of Public Works

ALIEN ATTACK: EMERALD ASH BORERS INVADE 88TH REGIONAL SUPPORT COMMAND

Emerald Ash Borer USDA James Zablotny

The U.S. Army Reserve is experiencing an invasion from a little, green alien species. No, they are not aliens from outer space and not escapees from Area 51. These aliens are terrorists that seek and destroy nature and, in this case, trees. Specifically, they target one entire genus or type of tree – the ash tree. Originally from Asia, they are Agrilus planipennis, commonly known as Emerald Ash Borers.

Why care? Emerald Ash Borers are small, metallic green beetles that kill every variety of ash tree by boring under the tree bark and disrupting the flow of water and nutrients. Most likely, they came to the United States from Asia on wooden crates from cargo ships or planes. The first United States identification of the Emerald Ash Borer was in southeastern Michigan in 2002. They have been advancing across the United States ever since, and their presence has been confirmed in 27 states: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The insects are already responsible for the destruction of millions of ash trees in these states.

Fort Snelling Army Reserve Center in Minnesota recently experienced the wrath of the Emerald Ash Borers when they killed all 19 ash trees at the facility. Other 88th Regional Support Command facilities have experienced significant losses, too. At Joliet Training Area south of Chicago, Illinois, about 7,500 trees have been killed by Emerald Ash Borers.

The loss of so many trees could have both environmental and financial impacts. Ecological services such as erosion prevention, water filtration and temperature regulation could decline. Sources of food, fuel and a myriad of consumer goods could diminish, and habitat for wildlife could disappear. Furthermore, the real estate values of infested sites could drop while pest management costs could rise, since annual treatment costs for every affected tree can easily exceed $100 every year. So, the implications of the Emerald Ash Borer’s destructive presence are dire.

What can be done to stop these nuisances? Currently, there is no known practical remedy to halt their progress, and no North American ash species has proven to be immune. Biological treatments are now under investigation, and field trials have started.

PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF EMERALD ASH BORERS …

Use locally sourced firewood, and burn it in the same county in which it was purchased. Firewood is a significant transportation mechanism for the Emerald Ash Borer. Don’t move firewood. Beetle larvae can survive if they are hidden in the bark of firewood. Remember: buy local, burn local.

Inspect your trees. If you see any sign or symptom of an infestation, contact your State agriculture agency.

Chemically treat only high-value ash trees located within 15 miles of a known infestation. Declining trees should be considered for removal.

Know State and Federal regulations. Make sure that you understand regulations that govern your state and those you may visit.

Report suspected Emerald Ash Borer infestations to your state Department of Agriculture.

Talk to friends, neighbors and colleagues about the Emerald Ash Borer and educate them about what they should be aware of on their trees.

Ask questions. If you receive ash nursery stock or firewood, know its point of origin and your supplier, as Emerald Ash Borer larvae could be hiding under the bark.

Know the quarantines in your area.

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Emerald Ash Borer Profile from U.S. Department of Agriculture

Emerald Ash Borer Information Network

Article by
Marshal Braman, Environmental Protection Specialist, 88th Regional Support Command

Photo by
James Zablotny, PhD/USDA