To conserve and protect MacDill's natural resources

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melanie Bulow-Gonterman
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
During the day-to-day grind of ensuring the mission of the 6th Air Mobility Wing is accomplished, the robust environment of MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. is often the last thing on one's mind, however, for Jason Kirkpatrick, 6th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resources program manager, the ecosystem is priority.

Kirkpatrick, an environmental steward, previously worked for an environmental consulting firm performing hazardous waste assessments and remediation. He signed on as a contractor at MacDill in Oct. 1999.

Currently, Kirkpatrick is in charge of three major projects, as part of an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan that ensures the base's 7.2 miles of shoreline and more than 5,000 acres of land are protected. MacDill's Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan describes various projects and programs that were established to protect and preserve its natural resources, which includes a National Wildlife Preserve.

The base's largest program is the Oyster Reef Shoreline Stabilization Project that began in 2004. The project involves the installation of oyster domes along the shoreline to create oyster habitats and help reduce erosion.

The resulting oyster and mussel colonies will filter water and provide valuable habitat for fish and other aquatic resources. The reduced wave energy and accumulated sediment will encourage growth of native marsh grasses and mangroves, which will further stabilize the shoreline and improve the habitat for the ecosystem.

According to the Southeast Aquatics Resources Partnership the eastern shoreline of MacDill AFB has eroded significantly over the past decade, resulting in the loss of native plant species, such as black mangroves, various palms, and 100-year-old live oaks.

Since 2004, Team MacDill and the local community have dedicated more than 3,400 hours to rebuilding the shoreline. Adding approximately 6,000 oyster domes and approximately 5,300 feet of reef to the habitat, the projects have accomplished their intended purpose--prevent erosion, attract wildlife and increase the amount of plant life.

In addition to MacDill's ecosystem project, a marsh grass-planting event takes place several times throughout the year, where volunteers plant plugs of marsh grass to help stabilize the shoreline. This plant grows in the water at the seaward edge, accumulates sediment, and encourages other habitat-engineering species, such as mussels to settle. This accumulation of sediment and substrate-building species gradually build the level of the land and allow higher-marsh species to move onto the new land.

"Organizing these volunteer events for the base is my job," said Kirkpatrick. "These are all projects that I enjoy implementing - they are a nice break from the computer, where I spend most of my day working on permits, reports, and other environmental compliance functions."

These programs enhance the environment and keep the base involved in the community.

"The military folks, as well as base civilians, have always been fantastic with their volunteer support," said Kirkpatrick. "Projects like the Oyster Reef project or the Coastal Clean-Ups would never get accomplished if it weren't for the amazing support of the MacDill community. They deserve all the praise."

For more information on past projects view the websites listed below