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MacDill partners with USFWS to preserve, protect local environment

Wildlife biologists monitor the living shoreline at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, April 2019.

Wildlife biologists monitor the living shoreline at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, April 2019. As part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, environmental efforts are important to protect and preserve lands found on Department of Defense installations. (Courtesy photo by Brendan Myers)

A juvenile gopher tortoise hides in its shell at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, April 2019.

A juvenile gopher tortoise hides in its shell at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, April 2019. Gopher tortoises are one of many wildlife species found on MacDill, and is listed as a vulnerable species. (Courtesy photo by Brendan Myers)

Oyster domes placed along Bayshore Blvd. at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, December 2018.

Oyster domes placed along Bayshore Blvd. at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, December 2018. Oyster domes allow populations of oysters to grow which filters the water in the local ecosystem. (Courtesy photo by Brendan Myers)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

In 1960, the importance and value of lands contained in military bases was formally recognized with the passing of the Sikes Act.

The act seeks to ensure that unique and diverse ecosystems are protected and enhanced while allowing the military to meet its operational needs.

Brendan Myers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service liaison, staffs an important position alongside the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron’s environmental flight, to diligently preserve and protect the lands located at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

“The Air Force and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have deep conservation partnership roots and compatible missions,” said Myers. “The Department of Defense has provided funding to the USFWS to embed assets on its installations for decades, and these personnel work alongside installation natural resources staff.”

Myers added that his job is to be a key point of contact between the USFWS and MacDill’s environmental personnel to consult about the Endangered Species Act and to help minimize the military’s mission impacts to endangered species found on base.

While MacDill’s environmental scope is small compared to the state of Florida, its unique location of being on a peninsula in a shallow bay estuary system calls for careful monitoring of its wildlife inhabitants.

“Several federally protected aquatic species can be found in the waters directly surrounding the base including the smalltooth sawfish, gulf sturgeon, Florida manatee and even giant manta rays,” said Myers.

Myers’ position requires him to stay vigilant on new species being added to any endangered list, and works closely with local and national agencies to keep up to date. One recent development in the Tampa Bay area saw the eastern black rail, a mouse-sized, secretive marsh bird, become threatened at the beginning of October.

“While this bird hasn’t been confirmed spotted at MacDill, it is known to occur within the region and has the potential to come to MacDill,” said Myers. “As the USFWS liaison, I was able to inform other [USFWS] employees and conduct surveys for this secretive bird at MacDill in the future.”

Moving forward, Myers aims to keep MacDill’s environment safe, and protect the wildlife that calls its peninsula home.