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Army Conservationists Lauded For Environmental Stewardship

By Shannon Rosenberg

The Secretary of Defense has been keeping a close eye on the Army in Hawaii, but not in a bad way.

On May 1, the Department of Defense announced the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii’s Oahu Army Natural Resources Program as the winner of the 2012 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award in the “Natural Resources Conservation – Individual/Team” category.

This is one of the SecDef’s top awards, and it recognizes exceptional performance in the development, management and transferability of environmental programs that increase environmental quality, enhance the mission and help make the military installations sustainable.

Hershell E. Wolfe, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for environment, safety and occupation health, along with many others, believe this award is much deserved.

“This year the Army earned more than half of the Secretary of Defense environmental awards, and with programs like the one here in Hawaii, that is no surprise,” said Wolfe. “The Oahu Army Natural Resources (OANRP) team truly is a leader in the conservation field. We depend on hard work like theirs to sustain the environment.”

The OANRP is tasked with managing more than 60 federally listed species on more than 50,000 acres of land. The staff is responsible for management techniques to ensure the survival of species that are unique to the island of Oahu. Some of these species include the Oahu elepaio bird, the Hawaiian hoary bat and the Kahului tree snails.

“We’re doing something special, and that’s what motivates us each and every day,” said Michelle Mansker, OANRP chief, Environmental Division, USAGHI. “When we’re out in the field with our hands in the aina we’re making a difference. We’ve actually saved two species from extinction; that’s huge. Words cannot describe how satisfying the feeling is.”

The team sustains six Army training ranges throughout Oahu by carrying out strict management of natural resources. Ninety percent of the staff is in the field daily, working with rare species in remote areas of the island across the Waianae and Koolau mountain ranges.

“This program over many years has not only stabilized threatened and endangered species here on Oahu, but serves as the model across the Army and federal government on how to collaborate with state, federal and private organizations to manage fragile populations,” said Col. Douglas Mulbury, USAG-HI commander.

“We’ve come so far in conserving natural resources here on Oahu,” said Kapua Kawelo, a federal biologist who has been with OANRP from the beginning. “The great strides we have made are largely due to our staff’s combined knowledge and skills for resource management, along with their shared passion for protecting Hawaii’s endangered species.”