By Heather Graham-Ashley
Fort Hood Public Affairs

FORT HOOD, Texas — Fort Hood was recognized June 7 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the agency’s 2017 Military Conservation Partner Award at a ceremony held at III Corps Headquarters.

Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, southwest regional director, USFWS, presented the award to Fort Hood Garrison Commander Col. Todd Fox, on behalf of the Service to recognize the post’s efforts with conservation and environmental stewardship.

“Fort Hood serves as an outstanding example of the many conservation contributions that military installations make across the country,”
Tuggle said. “They have ensured in execution of the training of our young Soldiers … that they pay attention to the stewardship responsibility that comes with that.”

The Military Conservation Partner Award is a national award presented each year “to a military installation that has made significant natural resource conservation achievements through cooperative work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state and local government and other organizations,” according to a USFWS release.

“It’s really a great honor to know that the efforts have been recognized and appreciated,” Fox said.

He acknowledged the partnerships that have ensured the success of the natural resources programs. Recognition of the hard work done at Fort Hood is appreciated, but it was not done alone, the garrison commander said.

“It goes back to partnerships,” Fox said. “We found a way to work together.”

Fort Hood was selected for the honor because of the installation’s collaborative efforts to balance training requirements while working to conserve and sustain wildlife and plant species and habitat, notably the installation’s ability to improve and manage the largest known populations of two endangered songbirds, the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.

After 30 years on the federally endangered species list, the black-capped vireo is facing a potential de-listing because of its population growth, thanks in large part to Fort Hood.

“We’re here to acknowledge the fact that, because of the commitment that Fort Hood is making, we have better populations of black-capped vireos and golden-cheeked warblers,” Tuggle said.

Retired Fort Hood biologist John Cornelius, who was part of the team that began the vireo and warbler programs on the installation, was on-hand to see the recognition and how far the program has come.

“It’s a validation of the whole effort,” he said. “The ultimate goal with any listing is to be able to de-list the species.”

In addition, the success of Fort Hood’s Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan, managed by Directorate of Public Works’ Natural and Cultural Resources Management Branch, led to the lifting of all training restrictions on the installation’s training lands in 2015.

These accomplishments, as well as Fort Hood’s sharing of research and collaborations with universities throughout the U.S. that have resulted in scientifically-important studies on reptiles and several endemic cave invertebrates on the installation, led to the recognition from the USFWS.

Tuggle also presented coins to approximately 40 employees from Fort Hood’s Natural and Cultural Resources Management Branch and acknowledged
their efforts on the installation.

“It is always a privilege to work with our armed forces partners on projects that have to do with conservation,” Tuggle said. “It speaks to the balancing of that stewardship of natural resources and, at the same time, it speaks to the military’s mission of making sure to protect our nation.”