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Jackson Guard named best in DOD [PHOTOS]

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Eglin was recognized for relocating 1,030 gopher tortoises to avoid its listing under the Endangered Species Act and potential mission impediments. The unit also conducted 160 prescribed burns across more than 145,000 acres on base, removing 290,000 tons of hazardous fuel biomass, and reducing wildfires caused by mission activities on test areas by 20 percent.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FLA. — Eglin’s Natural Resources Management, known as Jackson Guard, recently won the 2019 Secretary of Defense Natural Resources Conservation Award.

The Department of Defense established the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards to celebrate military service members and civilians for their exceptional commitment to protecting human health and the environment while advancing the military mission.

eglin jackson guard tortise

A gopher tortoise waits to begin exploring its new home deep within the Eglin Air Force Base range Oct. 26. The first of more than 250 tortoises were released into their 100-acre habitat after being moved from their previous home in South Florida. Increasing the gopher tortoise population here could prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the animal on the Threatened and Endangered Species list, allowing more flexibility for the military missions on Eglin. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

This is the fourth DOD award Eglin’s Natural Resources Management Branch claimed in the last nine years. In all, Eglin’s Environmental Management Division also won the DoD Sustainability Award in 2017, the DoD Environmental Quality Award in 2016 and the DoD Cultural Resources Management Award in 2011, bringing their total to seven DOD awards in nine years.

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“Being recognized seven times out of the last nine years as the best in the Department of Defense reflects the truly exceptional team we have guiding Eglin’s environmental stewardship.  I am proud of their dedication and for demonstrating we can execute our military mission while making environmental conservation a high priority,” said Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien, 96th Test Wing commander.

Eglin was recognized for relocating 1,030 gopher tortoises to avoid its listing under the Endangered Species Act and potential mission impediments. The unit also conducted 160 prescribed burns across more than 145,000 acres on base, removing 290,000 tons of hazardous fuel biomass, and reducing wildfires caused by mission activities on test areas by 20 percent.

eglin jackson guard civil engineers

Air Force Civil Engineer Center wildland fire managers review a map during a prescribed burn Jan. 25 at White Point Recreation Area on the Eglin reservation in Florida. Prescribed fires maintain the base’s ecosystem in its pristine state, reduce dangerous buildup of understory and enable maximum flexibility to conduct test and training missions without causing catastrophic wildfires. The Fire Management division here applies prescribed fire to an average of 90,000 acres annually.

Jackson Guard consists of nearly 50 civilian and contractor biologists, scientists, foresters and fire management specialists. They are responsible for managing a vast assemblage of distinct natural community types, the largest forested military reservation and over 120,000 square miles of water ranges, while enabling essential DOD missions.

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Credit for the accomplishment goes well beyond the team at the 96th Civil Engineer Group, said Maria Rodriguez, 96th CEG environmental management chief.

“It’s definitely a reflection of the base leadership’s commitment to being good stewards of the environment. Understanding that the military missions here can thrive because our stewardship, not in spite of it, is key to having total buy-in to our management practices,” she said.

eglin jackson guard catfish

Rhianna Hamilton keeps a safe distance from her catch as her grandfather Steve Griner showcases her accomplishment at the Eglin Youth Fishing Rodeo May 26-27, 2007. The NRT and members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stocked the pond with approximately 3,000 channel catfish and the NRT purchased approximately 1,000 pounds of catfish that was added to the pond before the event. With more than 250,000 acres conditionally open to an annual customer base that exceeds 27,000 active duty, DoD, and general public customers, daily access control and coordination are key to ensuring users safety and mission compatibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jerron Barnett)

Story by Mike Spaits, Team Eglin Public Affairs

PHOTO (TOP): An Eglin wildland firefighter lights up straw to create a fire around a simulated helicopter crash prior to a mass casualty exercise Oct. 3 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The community-wide exercise deep in the Eglin range encompassed 96th Test Wing first responders, 6th Ranger Training Battalion personnel and Okaloosa County first responders among others. The exercise evaluated Ranger actions and base and local responses to both a lightning strike and helicopter crash. The wildland firefighters are responsible for the large-scale controlled forest burns throughout the Eglin range. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

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