BASH, environmental team-up helps sustain base balance

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard program and the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Element work together more often than people realize since their jobs depend on each other.

The two agencies collaborate to ensure aircraft are safe when they are flying or on the ground, as well as to maintain a proper balance with the wildlife on base.

"We can't do our jobs fully without each other," said Tina Seemayer, 22nd CES Environmental Element natural and cultural resources program manager. "It is a symbiotic relationship. Our climate allows people to work to attain the goals of their particular area while also trying to learn and understand the impact to others when our fields of concern overlap. We have to be flexible and work toward understanding the issues working on our area causes on others' areas."

The mission of BASH is to mitigate risks to the aircraft by keeping birds and wildlife off the airfield and the surrounding areas while ensuring that they stay within inter-agency agreements.

"Every base has an inter-agency environmental agreement between the military installation, U.S. and State Fish and Wildlife Services that sets aside parts of base to do wildlife protection," said Lauren Caister, Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard program manager. "What usually happens is that the people writing those agreements try to use the airfield space for conservation, but we try to stay alert to prevent that from happening. The environmental folks out here have been very cooperative with us on it."

The team-up between BASH and environmental keeps an eye out for what species are residing on base, and they do constant surveys to ensure the species stay within their constraints and don't cross into the airfield area.

A variety of wildlife call the areas on and around McConnell home, such as coyotes, opossums, rabbits, hawks as well as many different species of fish.

"We still have coyotes as well as lots of skunks and things that raid bird nests," said Caister. "I also don't kill snapping turtles. I just remove any I find from the airfield, but I like having them in our ponds because they eat ducklings and that helps us control the bird population on base."

McConnell's approach to keeping aircraft safe on base is a small-scale version of how the food chain functions on the outside of base, with a few changes specific to the inside.

"One of the big issues with most military installations is that a lot of the predators have been eliminated, so they're providing the wildlife a sanctuary," said Caister. "Our base is a little different because we don't take the 'shoot everything you see' approach."

According to Caister, allowing certain species on base under a controlled environment keeps a natural flow in the food chain and some species are safer to have residing on base than others.

"The overall goal of natural resources management isn't to create a wildlife refuge on McConnell, but rather ensure that our actions don't result in a loss of mission capability," said Seemayer. "We get the side benefits of being good stewards of our resources, being a good community partner and looking after the health and welfare of both the environment and the people that rely on it to survive."