Fort Bragg……Tree City USA

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Fort Bragg received its’ 12th consecutive Tree City USA certification today at the Fort Bragg Arbor Day event.  Standards for Tree City USA recognition include having a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, observing Arbor Day,  and passing an official Arbor Day proclamation.

Two red cedars were planted in the monument section of the Main Post parade field.

For further information on Tree City USA visit  https://www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/about.cfm

You are invited!

Come join us in celebrating Fort Bragg’s and North Carolina’s official Arbor Day at 10 a.m. on Friday, 17  March (how fitting – it’s also St. Patrick’s Day)  at the Main Post Parade Field – monument area (corner of Randolph. Alexander and Hunt streets).  Fort Bragg’s Arbor Day Proclamation will be read and several trees will be planted in the area.

Fort Bragg has actively celebrated North Carolina’s Arbor Day for well over a decade with tree plantings in various locations throughout the installation.  The Fort Bragg Arbor Board in conjunction with the Directorate of Public Work’s Environmental Division hosts the tree planting each year.

This year two red cedars will be planted near the monuments to replace several trees that had to be removed due to disease or age.

North Carolina’s Arbor Day is always celebrated on the first Friday after March 15th.  The official proclamation and planting event is just one step toward earning the Tree City USA certification.  Fort Bragg has proudly been designated Tree City USA for 12 consecutive years.

For further information on Sustainable Fort Bragg, email Lynda.S.Pfau.ctr@mail.mil or call 910-432-8476.

Burning Towards Success

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Fort Bragg Forestry Personnel Control Hotspots During Prescribed Burning

 

By Mindy Love, DPW

Fort Bragg takes ecosystem management seriously. An important part of ecosystem management on the installation is prescribed fire. What is a prescribed fire? A prescribed fire, also referred to as a controlled burn, is an intentional fire controlled by a team of experts applied to fire adapted landscapes. On Fort Bragg, the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem is fire dependent and requires prescribed fire to reduce fuel loads, manage important habitats, assist with wildlife management, and is also beneficial to military training!

Fort Bragg uses prescribed fire to reduce vegetation, or fuel, which could lead to large, uncontrolled wildfires. Prescribed burning promotes the regeneration/germination of longleaf pine and many other plant species and controls hardwoods in the forest understory. Wildlife management in the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem, including management of rare and endangered species, requires frequent burning. This method of vegetation control also creates an improved and safer training environment for our military.

Each year the installation creates a detailed plan for the areas to be burned, describing the management objectives for the burn. Trained forestry and natural resources personnel conduct prescribed burns across approximately 55,000 acres of training lands annually. Included in the plan is the procedure for fire and smoke management, allowable weather conditions and personnel needs, as well as an action plans in the event of changing conditions.

The bulk of the controlled burns take place from December through June when weather conditions are favorable. Firebreaks, wide roads or trails which are graded or cleared of vegetation to ensure that the fire does not leave the area, dot the installation landscape. Additionally, Fort Bragg Forestry personnel use a variety of vehicles and equipment such as pumpers with water tanks, graders, tractor plows, and an assortment of hand tools to ensure the burns are controlled. Burns are normally conducted when forecasted wind conditions will cause smoke to be blown away from major roads, buildings, housing areas and airfields.

Our Longleaf Pine Ecosystem is dependent on fire. The red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), a federally listed endangered species found on Fort Bragg, requires its habitat to be managed by regular fires. This is vital to its population management and the continued success of the RCW on Fort Bragg. Many other plants and animals also require fire to reproduce or thrive. Prescribed burns reduce competition, release seeds, and add nutrients to the soil, all which benefit numerous species. Equally important, prescribed fire directly and indirectly supports the military mission and optimizes training conditions for our soldiers.

Without fire, the forest may develop a dense undergrowth of shrubs and young hardwood trees which can grow into the mid-story of the forest canopy. These changes to the forest can make areas unsuitable for some species of wildlife.

Wildfires have the potential to be more dangerous and destructive in the absence of prescribed fire due to the increased fuel accumulation in the form of vegetation. Reducing this fuel consequently reduces the risk to people and property created by wildfires. Smoke from wildfires is difficult to control, and it carries more pollutants than smoke from prescribed burns. Each year installation Forestry personnel respond to approximately 250 wildfires which are normally smaller in size and easily controlled due to the prescribed burning program.

Fort Bragg coordinates with numerous stakeholders including the North Carolina Department of Environment Quality and the North Carolina Forest Service when conducting prescribed burns. The installation also notifies the public of prescribed burning activity via installation social media.

Prescribed burns are vital for managing of Fort Bragg’s unique longleaf pine ecosystem, which provides an environment essential for the training our soldiers today and tomorrow.

For more information on the prescribed burn program on Fort Bragg contact the Forestry Branch at 910-396-2510.

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Prescribed Fire Reduces Fuel on the Forest Floor

HOW TO BECOME A SUSTAINABLE PET OWNER IN 6 EASY STEPS

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Furry, four-legged creatures enrich our lives with their unconditional love. Some people are looking to add a pet to the family, while others have a special furry family member in their household already. Whether you’re looking for a new pet or have one already, why not take some simple steps to make your pet healthier and more sustainable? Making small changes over time is less stressful than trying to change the world in one day. It’s easy to be green!

1) Adopt a Pet from a Shelter. Adopting a shelter cat or dog is the ultimate in sustainability and recycling. Oftentimes breeders are thinking of one goal: breed as many purebred animals as possible for income. Over the decades this has resulted in overbreeding, inbreeding, overcrowding, and lack of proper care of many animals. Instead of buying a dog or cat from a breeder, consider one of the unwanted animals in shelters across the US. Each day shelters are overrun with dogs and cats in need of a good home. Shelter animals make good pets! Why buy when you can adopt? Don’t forget the ID chip and pet tag!

2) Spay or neuter your pet. Thousands of puppies and kittens are born each day in the US, adding to the homeless pet population. Spaying and neutering your dog or cat helps them live longer, healthier lives while preventing unwanted puppies and kittens.

3) Contain your pets to protect them and native wildlife. Always keep your dog on a leash when outside, and keep your feline indoors. Cats are the biggest bird killers, surpassed only by habitat destruction. Even wind turbines don’t kill as many birds as cats. While you may dismiss cat-related bird-mortality rates as no big deal, domestic cats do have the advantage. Unlike wild predators, these feisty felines are well fed, well rested, and have built in weapons.

Indoor cats are safer and live longer due to the dangers of cars, predators, disease, and other hazards found outside. Consider a cat enclosure as a good way to compromise if kitty needs to feel the grass under her paws.

4) Be #1 in #2! Be sure to scoop pet poo into biodegradable poo bags. Pet feces can pollute water and spread diseases and parasites. For kitty, avoid clumping clay litter, which contains a silica dust and other chemicals that can get into kitty’s lungs and on her fur, which is bad for kitty. Eco-friendly cat litters made from newspaper, corn, or wheat are a safer, healthier alternative. Want to go a step further? Consider composting your pet’s poo in a pet waste composter. It biodegrades naturally and prevents that waste from heading to the landfill.

5) Use natural pet-care and cleaning products. Look for gentler, non-toxic options for washing your pets or cleaning up the occasional pet mess.

6) Pets are a long term commitment, choose wisely. Remember, that snuggly baby bunny or chick at Easter, or the puppy under the tree at Christmas will eventually grow from fun-sized to full-sized, along with the time and money needed to take care of them. Be sure that you’re ready to take on that commitment over the long term before taking the plunge.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to sustainable pet ownership! Your pets, and Mother Nature, will thank you! For more information on sustainability, please view our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sustainablefortbragg.

NIGHT MOVES: Biologists Work to Dispel Fears, Preserve Bats at Fort Bragg

Rafinesque's Big-eared Bat

Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat

Bats have long been associated with Halloween. Indeed, the origin of Halloween has a long history. Once celebrated during the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) in what is now Ireland, Great Britain, and France, the Celts believed that on 31 October the ghosts of the dead returned to earth the day before their new year. They built sacred bonfires, dressed in costumes, and left food on their doorsteps for the roaming ghosts. This eventually was secularized and evolved into what we know as Halloween in the present day.

So where do bats fit into Halloween? It is believed that the huge bonfires built to keep spirits away attracted insects to the fire. Those insects buzzing about in turn attracted bats, which are voracious insectivores. The festival of Samhain was a celebration of the harvest and the change of the season from fall to winter. It was all very innocent really. Bats were taking advantage of the insects around these huge fires and at that time, people had no idea they would eventually become associated with Halloween.

Folklore of vampires and blood suckers were common across Europe, so in the 17th century when Europeans learned of bats in Latin America that feed on blood they were given the common name vampire bats. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until Bram Stokers book Dracula and the vampire movies of the 1950’s that the idea of evil bloodsucking creatures took flight. Suddenly, these small, winged mammals were demonized and became the creatures some people wrongly fear today.

Hanging Red Bat

Hanging Red Bat

The unknown leads to many misconceptions and fears of a mammal that is in reality extremely beneficial. There are many bat myths circulating around.

  • Myth 1: Bats are blind. FALSE. While they actually do have good eyesight, for most that is not their primary way to seek food or navigate the night sky. They use what is known as echolocation to seek out their prey and fly at night. Echolocation is a biological sonar system whereby the bat emits a high frequency sound and uses the corresponding echo from that call to determine the location and identification of objects and prey. This allows them to navigate in total darkness and see everything, sensing obstacles as fine as a human hair.
  • Myth 2: Bats are flying mice. FALSE. Bats are not rodents and are more closely related to you than a mouse.
  • Myth 3: Bats get tangled in your hair. FALSE. Remember that echolocation sonar system they use? It can detect an obstacle as fine as a human hair, so no worries!
  • Myth 4: All bats are blood suckers. FALSE. While there are three species of vampire bats found in Latin America, only one targets mammals. However, they don’t suck blood, they lap it up like a kitten with milk. The bats produce a powerful anticoagulant in their saliva to keep the blood from clotting. This enzyme is used in medication that helps prevent strokes in humans.
  • Myth 5: All bats are rabid. FALSE. Not even close! Sure bats can contract rabies like other mammals and some may. Nonetheless, the vast majority of bats are not infected. If you see a bat that you can easily approach it is likely sick and you should avoid contact. This includes your pets as well. Never handle a bat or any other wild animal – leave that to the pros!
  • Myth 6: Bats don’t matter. FALSE. Bats DO matter! Why? Bats are on the first line of defense against many insects and pests. One small Mexican free-tailed bat, found here on Fort Bragg, can eat about 1,000 insects per hour! It has been estimated that pest-control services provided by bats likely saves the U.S. agriculture industry at least $3 billion a year. Without these nighttime flying mammals there would be more pests eating precious crops. As for the bats that eat nectar and fruit, without them seeds would not be dispersed and plants would not be pollinated. Items such as bananas, avocados, and tequila would vanish.

There are over 1,300 species of bats found all over the world, except in extreme Polar Regions, and they come in all shapes and sizes from the tiny bumblebee bat to the large flying foxes and everything in between. Bats are the only mammals that have developed powered flight; other flying mammals only glide. A bats wing is made from thin skin stretched between elongated fingers, allowing the bat to maneuver more accurately than a bird.

Bats eat many different things, including insects, fruit, nectar, fish, and least of all, blood. All of the bats found in North Carolina are insectivorous so you will not find any fruit, nectar, vampire, or fish-eating bats in this locale. About two-thirds of all bat species feed on insects and other small prey.

Not all bats live in caves. Bats found on the Installation do not use caves while in this area, but some species may travel to caves in the winter to hibernate. Potential roost locations include tree foliage, hollow trunks, under the loose bark of trees, tree cavities, buildings, bridges, and bat houses.

Red Bat & Seminole Bat Side-by-Side

Red Bat & Seminole Bat Side-by-Side

The Endangered Species Branch has documented ten of the sixteen different species of bats found in North Carolina on Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall, including two rare species: Big Brown bats, Evening bats, Hoary bats, Silver-haired bats, Eastern Red bats, Tri-colored bats, Seminole bats, Brazilian (or Mexican) Free-tailed bats, Southeastern bats and Rafinesque’s Big-eared bats. The Southeastern and Rafinesque’s Big-eared bats are both listed as Federal Species of Concern and North Carolina Special Concern species.

Biologists search for bats using special equipment to record their echolocation calls, and by searching in hollow trees, under bridges, in old buildings, and catching bats in mist nets. Mist nets look like giant hair nets that are strung up across an area where bats will come to frequently (like a water source) with hopes that a bat flies into it so it can be captured. Oftentimes, the bats avoid the mist nets due to their echolocation call, which causes the bat to “see” and hear the net so they fly around to avoid capture.

Red Bat & Seminole Bat Side View

Red Bat & Seminole Bat Side View

Bats are in trouble. Not only are they are continually threatened by habitat loss each year, but since 2007 they’ve been decimated by a rapidly spreading fungal infection known as White Nose Syndrome. First detected in New York, it has spread into the central United States and as far north as Quebec, killing millions. What can you do? Don’t be afraid! You can help bats by encouraging them to roost in your yard by constructing a bat house or by protecting their roost sites and habitat. Build a bat house and you may be able to save money on bug repellant!

Just in time for Halloween is Bat Week 2015 starting on 25 October 2015. For more information on bat week visit http://www.batweek.org/. For more facts about bats you can also visit Bat Conservation International for up to date information at http://www.batcon.org/