FIGHT THE BITE: FORT BUCHANAN WORKS TO COMBAT MOSQUITOES, ZIKA

Yellow Fever Mosquito

Do you know Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus? The Directorate of Public Works (DPW) at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico knows these fellows all too well. They are not colleagues or Soldiers or even characters in the community. They are mosquitoes, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they are responsible for the illnesses that are currently creating major public health concerns in the Caribbean Islands, Central America and South America.

With its bounty of natural beauty and its rich heritage, Puerto Rico is an idyllic paradise, but the concentrated population and lush environment on the island also create a “perfect storm” for the proliferation of the Yellow Fever mosquito and Asian Tiger mosquito, which are aggressive biters and the primary carriers of Dengue Fever,

Chikungunya virus and Zika virus. Per the 2015 Census, the island boasts over three million residents – one million of whom live in the San Juan area. In addition, Puerto Rico has a sub-tropical climate with an average temperature of 80 degrees and copious rainfall. According to Mr. Victor Rodriguez-Cruz, an Environmental Protection Specialist at Fort Buchanan, the Aedes mosquitoes have a preference for habitats around urban settings, which tend to have many standing pools of water for breeding. “[The climate] provides adequate conditions for mosquitoes to breed, and with our high population density, there is a potential risk of mosquitoes transmitting a variety of arthropod-borne viruses,” he said.

While all mosquito-borne illnesses are dangers to public health, Zika virus is a particularly dire issue. Dengue Fever and Chikungunya virus present symptoms that include fever, headache, muscle ache and joint pain. Although similar to those of Dengue Fever and Chikungunya virus, the symptoms of Zika virus are much milder in and sometimes completely absent from afflicted individuals. But, Zika virus can also cause neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome and a brain-damaging birth defect called microcephaly, which is a life-long and incurable condition that can often remain undetected until an infected child is born. Furthermore, Zika is blood borne and can be transmitted from human to human through sexual contact, blood transfusions and in-utero transmission.

The CDC estimates that the Zika virus now affects an estimated one million people in South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean islands, and the illness is spreading rapidly – even into the United States.

Fort Buchanan is leading the charge against mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases in Puerto Rico. “It is important for the Installation to protect the community by proactively controlling mosquito populations,” Rodriguez-Cruz remarked. “Our vector management program is directed towards maintaining mission readiness by protecting the well-being of our Soldiers, their Families and the Civilians who support them.”

In collaboration with Army Public Health Command through Rodriguez Army Health Clinic, Fort Buchanan’s Installation Integrated Pest Management Program has developed a tiered program to control the mosquito population and reduce the spread of Zika. They are using traps to capture and monitor mosquitoes on the Installation, and they are implementing mosquito breeding area surveillance to determine the origins of the populations and remove their habitats. When mosquito populations are discovered, larvae are removed, in some cases. In cases where source reduction is not feasible, though, ultra-low-volume pesticides are applied. Additionally, Fort Buchanan is partnering with Federal and state health departments to share their epidemiological and ecological information.

“This tiered approach permits us to attack the mosquito population throughout all stages of the insect’s life cycle: egg, larvae, pupae and adult,” said Rodriguez-Cruz. “This approach implements Integrated Pest Management practices that rely on the judicious use of both chemical and non-chemical treatments to prevent and control mosquitoes. This methodology minimizes potential environmental impacts and prevents pollution by reducing sole reliance on pesticides. Also, surveillance of mosquito populations helps determine the need for control and helps us to monitor the effectiveness of the program.”

PREVENTING MOSQUITO-BORNE ILLNESSES

Remove any containers with standing water from your Army Reserve facility or personal property. Standing water is the primary breeding habitat for mosquitoes.

Clean and refresh pet water dishes, watering troughs and birdbaths at least once each week.

Cover outdoor pools and spas when they are not used, and ensure that they are properly chlorinated.

Clear rain gutters and roofs of debris and standing water.

Install mosquito-repellant plants such as citronella, mint, marigold and catnip in your garden.

Stay inside when mosquitoes are active.

Close doors and windows. Use air conditioning to cool your facility.

When you are outside, use oscillating fans to deter mosquitoes.

Use a mosquito repellant that has been registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Ingredients such as DEET and picaridin are considered to be safe and effective when used as directed.

Wear long sleeves and pants when feasible.

Monitor your health. If you notice any symptoms of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya virus or Zika virus, seek medical assistance.

ARMY RESERVE HIGHLIGHTS WILDLIFE FOR WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

This year, the United Nations’ World Environment Day raised awareness about global wildlife concerns such as the illegal wildlife trade, and Army Reserve Sustainability Programs (ARSP) celebrated the observance by highlighting some of the unique flora and fauna managed by U.S. Army Reserve Installations, Regional Support Commands and Mission Support Command.

The future of the Earth’s wildlife is important to the Army Reserve. Because the Army Reserve has a global “bootprint,” numerous threats to natural resources and conflicts that arise as a result of those threats have the potential to impact mission objectives across the world. Wildlife issues also hit closer to home, since the Army Reserve’s land-holding commands are obliged by law to properly manage natural resources. If the Army Reserve does not comply with regulations regarding wildlife stewardship, the Federal government could then impose restrictions on operations – restrictions that could severely impede readiness. By protecting wildlife throughout the enterprise, the Army Reserve can protect the availability of the critical lands that provide habitat for our species and training for our Soldiers.

To educate Soldiers and Civilians about wildlife and its interactions with the military, ARSP hosted an information station at Army Reserve Command headquarters at Fort Bragg on June 8. Participants learned about threatened and endangered species at Army Reserve sites, and they calculated their ecological footprints.

In conjunction, ARSP launched its first-ever “Go Wild” digital photography contest, which garnered 114 entries. And, they collected almost 50 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to feed the animals at Aloha Zoo, a wildlife rescue center in Cameron, North Carolina.

Even though World Environment Day happens only once each year, Soldiers and Civilians in the Army Reserve community can do their parts to protect wildlife every day.

What can you do to protect wildlife in your community?

Be considerate and respectful of wildlife and their habitats.

Comply with all Federal, state, local and Installation regulations regarding interactions  with wildlife – especially if you hunt or fish.

Carefully consider sales or purchases of animals and plants or goods derived from animals and plants to ensure that they are sustainably and legally traded.

Report evidence of wildlife poaching or harassment to your state bureau of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Visit fws.gov for more information.

Pledge to purchase products and services only from companies that support the humane treatment of animals.

Support or volunteer at a local agency that promotes animal and plant conservation such as an animal shelter or wildlife refuge.

Prevent pollution. Air, water and soil pollution can harm wildlife and their environments. Reduce your use of chemicals and discard your household wastes properly.

Conserve natural resources by saving energy and water, recycling and reducing waste.

XERISCAPING PROJECTS SAVE WATER DESPITE DROUGHT AT 63RD REGIONAL SUPPORT COMMAND

Drought Tolerant Plants
In the 1746 edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” American statesman Benjamin Franklin wrote, “When the well is dry, we will know the worth of water.” The U.S. Army Reserve knows the worth of water. In fact, the success of every mission depends on it. At some sites, though, drought is turning water into a limited resource and conservation into a necessity.

The 63rd Regional Support Command (RSC) has found a practical way to combat the drought and reduce water consumption with some unique landscaping projects.

“Water conservation projects were, and are, necessary due to the water use observed at many sites,” said Varun Sood, a resource efficiency manager for the 63rd RSC. Many facilities in the Command– which includes the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas – are located in arid geographic areas that continuously experience drought and water scarcity, resulting in high water bills and a lack of water security that threatens to disrupt readiness.

“We want to reduce our total water consumption,” said Sood. To that end, the 63rd RSC added xeriscaping to conservation efforts.

Xeriscaping is the practice of landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental irrigation. Originally developed for drought-afflicted areas, the principles of xeriscaping have a broadening appeal as a result of their many benefits.

Typically, xeriscapes have features that are less water intensive such as stone ground covers and native plants, which are plants that have naturally occurred in a particular habitat over time, with no human intervention. Native plants are well adapted to an area’s unique climate and environmental characteristics such as its water availability, soil composition and indigenous insects. Xeriscapes therefore require less water, fewer fertilizers and fewer pesticides. As a result, these designs have the long-term potential to conserve water, prevent chemical pollution and save money. Hays Kinslow, an energy manager with the 63rd RSC, said that xeriscapes also improve the aesthetics of their sites and reduce the need for water infrastructure and grounds maintenance.

Over the past two years, xeriscapes have been completed in California at Los Alamitos Reserve Center in Los Alamitos, Holderman Hall Reserve Center in Los Angeles and Bell Reserve Center in Bell Gardens. “They are large facilities where we could make a big impact due to the amount of water used there for irrigation,” Sood explained. Currently, another xeriscape is planned for Leymel Hall Reserve Center in Fresno, and the 63rd RSC is exploring ways to incorporate xeriscaping in future projects.

According to Sood, all of the 63rd RSC’s projects include plants native to California, stone ground covers, drip irrigation systems and other features of a traditional xeric garden.

When xeriscapes have been combined with additional water conservation methods, such as plumbing improvements, the results have been quite impressive. The 63rd RSC has reduced its water use by nearly 38 percent from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2015. “Xeriscape projects have reduced the need for irrigation and have definitely contributed to a reduction in water use at our sites,” said Sood.

With their innovative ideas for landscapes that work with the environmental conditions at their sites, the 63rd RSC is contributing to a culture of conservation across the Army Reserve, and they are making every drop count.

READ MORE ABOUT XERISCAPING

Seven Principles of Xeriscaping

Xeriscape from Sustainable Sources

Xeriscape Ideas from The Landscaping Network

Find Native Plants

ARMY RESERVE WORKS WITH FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO CONSERVE NORTHERN LONG-EARED BAT

NLEB

Article by Jonelle Kimbrough, Communications Coordinator, Army Reserve Sustainability Programs
and Veronda Johnson, Environmental Protection Specialist, Army Reserve Command

Bats are critical to our nation’s ecology and economy. They consume tons of insects every night and pollinate numerous food plants, thus providing a natural benefit to farmers, foresters and consumers. In fact, some research indicates that bats provide at least $3 billion in economic value annually. However, a deadly disease is decimating populations of the northern long-eared Bat (NLEB) in the United States and prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to protect these important creatures. As a federal entity, the Army Reserve is also tasked with their conservation – a responsibility that the 88th Regional Support Command is heeding to protect military operations as well as our flying friends.

The NLEB is found in several Army Reserve regions, primarily in the 88th and 99th RSCs and in a more limited range in the 81st and 63rd RSCs. It is also one of the seven bat species impacted by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has caused the deaths of millions of bats in the northeast. Some affected bat populations have experienced a 99 percent mortality rate.

Due to significant population declines caused by the spread of white-nose syndrome throughout the United States and Canada, the USFWS announced that it is protecting the NLEB as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973.

The presence of threatened and endangered species on military installations can have potentially major impacts on the environment and the mission. Species losses can cause devastating ecological imbalances, and “significant use restrictions could be applied by the USFWS and enforced under the ESA if the 88th RSC is not compliant with federal laws” surrounding these species, explained Marshal Braman, an environmental protection specialist and Versar contractor with the 88th RSC.

In an effort to prevent those restrictions, the 88th RSC completed an informal Section 7 consultation for Indiana bats with the USFWS, which resulted in the 2013 preparation and approval of an Endangered Species Management Component (ESMC). In the ESMC, which was revised last year to include the NLEB, the Army Reserve determined and the USFWS concurred that military operations “may affect but are not likely to adversely affect” bat populations. Military training, aircraft operations and recreation are covered for all locations. Other activities including the use of smoke or obscurants, forest management, prescribed burning, pest management and construction also continue but with the implementation of conservation measures that will prevent “take” of the NLEB, which is defined by the ESA as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect any endangered species.”

Fortunately, white-nose syndrome has not yet been detected throughout the entire range of the NLEB. And, bats and Soldiers have been living in harmony thus far. “Most training activities are on different time schedules from the bats, so there is minimal potential interaction,” Braman commented. Bats are most active at dawn and dusk and during the night, but nearly all training normally occurs during the day.

In the event that a NLEB roost tree is encountered on the training area, Soldiers are to identify its location, immediately cease all activities within a 150 foot radius of the tree and report their observations to natural resources personnel, who will then provide direction regarding continued activities, use of the immediate area and subsequent actions.

“The 88th RSC will follow the established measures outlined in the ESMC to avoid potential impacts to the bats and maintain suitable habitat for their continued use,” Braman said.

The Army is considered a leader in the efforts to protect our natural world and the rare plants, insects and animals with whom we share our military installations.

The programmatic approach between the USFWS and the 88th RSC to protect a once common bat can serve as a model for future actions, and it will ensure the protection of wide-range species and the conservation of the lands and resources that directly support the men and women who defend our freedom.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NORTHERN LONG-EARED BAT