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Natural resources a major part of life at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany

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This is the 21st installment in an occasional series highlighting the entities and individuals aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

MCLB-ALBANY — Beyond the warehouse buildings and command centers at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany are its natural resources. But even natural resources need someone has to take care of them.

That duty falls to Julie Robbins, natural and cultural resources manager at the base, whose program manages the natural resources at MCLB-Albany. This includes keeping track of any endangered species on the installation, handling hunting guidelines and population management, handling nuisance wildlife calls, and managing the timber resources, as well as the fishing procedures for MCLB’s four ponds.

The gopher tortoise, a species at MCLB, is a candidate for the endangered list, while the wood stork is intermittent. The Bachman sparrow, a rare species, is also found at the base, Robbins said.

Robbins said the department’s work is largely seasonal. During the winter and spring months, there are 1,400 acres of forest burned every two years. Fuel levels are maintained in order to prevent wildfires. Recreational access — including the regular youth quail hunt — and wildlife vegetation access are maintained, including the habitat for rare species on the base and the food access for deer and quail.

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The health of the trees are seen to and insect outbreaks are managed, as are the hunting programs.

During the summer, the priority is a white-tailed deer survey that helps set the hunting guidelines. It is conducted with the help of cameras set up throughout the installation. In the fall, the department conducts control of over 20 invasive species that may be triggered by human activity taking place within the installation.

“We identify where the species are and how to get rid of them,” Robbins said.

She added that it is hard for her department to have what would be described as a typical day, but there is a natural resources management plan there — like at any other military base — fostering a multi-use approach. Her staff also maintains the 900-square-foot nature center, including information on Southwest Georgia history and the nature that may be encountered in the area.

The center can also serve as a place where school groups tour and engage in art projects and story-time. Not too far from that is the 88-acre wetland area that is part of the Indian Lake Wildlife Refuge.

Beyond the legal obligation for the Department of Defense to protect natural resources and recreation activities, the activities of Robbins’ department can also serve as a revenue source.

“Money (from the timber) goes back to ensure tree health,” she said.

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In the 1950s when the installation become operational, the area within the perimeter included several small farmlands. Work is being done to restore some of that environment, and officials anticipate such actions will protect water quality and soil quality.

“And air quality (as well) because trees take carbon out of the air,” Robbins said.

The design of MCLB splits it into three zones — central, industrial and residential — all of which are surrounded by the installation’s tree life. This allows, Robbins said, more interaction with wildlife than at most military installations.

“People have more interaction on this base with the habitat than (at) any installation I have been on,” she said.

This provides more unique opportunities for educating people how to interact with the nature they may encounter, including the rattlesnakes or bird nests that may find their way into MCLB’s depot area.

The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake has a good population on the base, which on its own warrants the safety stand-downs and presentations to active duty members on how to handle such interactions.

“People are going to come across animals (at MCLB),” Robbins said.

The department also produces pamphlets educating the installation’s workforce with the intention of making sure humans and wildlife can coexist without compromising the safety of either — whether it involves the vultures, tiger salamanders, fox squirrels, bobcats, alligators, coyotes, red or gray foxes, hognose snakes or skunks, to name a few species, people may come across.

“It reduces the number of nuisance calls if we educate people,” Robbins said.

The education provided gives personnel tips on what to do if they see a rattlesnake or other species interfering with their duties. Depending on the type of species, the guidance may be to leave it alone, safely remove it or call a natural resources staff member to help remove it.

Currently, Robbins said, the department’s focus is on the restoration of certain habitats, such as the longleaf pine. There are multiple acres of ground cover that officials are working to restore back into its pre-European roots.

There also is an active effort to recover from the Jan. 22, 2017, tornado, which ripped out an 160-acre pecan orchard and 400 acres of forest land at the base.

“That is one of our major focuses in the next couple of years,” Robbins said.

There is growing season burning taking place to gain more control over some of the species populations. Relevant to tornado recovery, the trees that could not be saved were piled and burned — and the impacted areas are now being prepared for 150,000 trees to be planted over the course of a month.

As far as the overall mission of MCLB is concerned, Robbins said she sees her department as being central to the support function.

“We make sure wildlife function doesn’t not impede the mission of the base,” she said.

Not only is someone more likely to interact with nature at MCLB-Albany, the installation’s natural resources department can focus on the restoration efforts — and overall environment — that some bases cannot.

“We can put a level of detail of maintaining (the wildlife structure) a lot installations can’t because of their size,” Robbins said.

The invasive species, for instance, can all be identified and eliminated. The efforts to restore the ground cover may not be as intensive at other installations.

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© 2018 The Albany Herald, Ga.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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