DoD Reveals 2024 Secretary of Defense Environmental Awardees

The Department of Defense announced the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards winners for 2024, April 22.

The awards recognize installations, teams and individuals for their exceptional achievements in effective environmental management strategies that enhance installation resilience and mission readiness.

"Understanding that installations built, and natural environments strongly impact service members' quality of life, DoD is committed to ensuring that its installations are healthy, safe, functional and resilient," said Brendan Owens, assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment.

Each year since 1962, the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards have formally recognized members and civilians across DOD who have made significant strides to conserve the nation's natural and cultural resources; protect human health and the environment; prevent or eliminate pollution at the source; clean up hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants, and munitions; and incorporate environment, safety and occupational health requirements into weapon systems acquisition. DOD's emphasis on protection of environment quality ultimately improves Department personnel's quality of life and protects natural environments vital for mission success.

A diverse panel of 47 judges from federal and state agencies, academia and the private sector evaluated nominations from DOD Components to determine the 2024 winners.

In 2024, DOD selected the following nine winners from a total of 31 nominees. Information about the winners and brief descriptions of their achievements are included below:

Natural Resources Conservation, Small Installation: Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota - Implemented a raptor translocation program to decrease the lethal take of 14 raptor species on base due to wildlife-aircraft collisions. The program translocated 55 juveniles, from six raptor species, 50 miles to be released on federal lands. These efforts reduced bird-aircraft strike risk, promoted natural raptor populations and contributed to scientific knowledge on raptor ecology, including movement and longevity.

Natural Resources Conservation, Individual/Team: Mr. Hugo Cobos, Kadena Air Base, Japan - Developed monitoring procedures and projects to protect species at Bellows Air Force Station. These efforts identified two endangered species at the station: the Hawaiian stilt and the Hawaiian moorhen. After identifying two Hawaiian stilt nests, Mr. Cobos worked with Bellows AFS staff and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop conservation measures, including maintaining a safe distance from the endangered waterbird breeding sites during the early incubation period.

Environmental Quality, Non-Industrial Installation: Eglin AFB, Florida - Demonstrated a commitment to stewardship and sustainability through enhancing habitat and fostering the protection of threatened and endangered species, including the Okaloosa darter. Eglin's expansive conservation efforts across 385,000 acres and 2,150 miles of range roads led to the Endangered Species Act de-listing of the rare fish species.

Environmental Quality, Individual/Team: Guam Environmental Quality Team, Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, Guam - Published a new Environmental Policy Statement for the base, directing environmental compliance, preventing pollution and improving toward a robust environmental management system. The team obtained funding for projects such as inventorying air emissions, sampling drinking water, controlling and preventing spills, and composing hazardous waste management plans.

Sustainability, Industrial Installation: Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania - Maintained an annual water usage consumption reduction of 63-percent and 66-percent in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Measures contributing to the reduction were a 90-percent reuse rate through water recycling in the Industrial Operations Facility, groundwater monitoring equipment on drinking water wells and a water utility valve maintenance trailer for more efficient and timely water valve repairs.

Environmental Restoration, Installation: Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine - Prepared the installation's Final Close Out Report, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report documenting all remedies are in place and all cleanup goals are achieved. EPA signed the FCOR with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's concurrence in June 2023. The FCOR completion resulted in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard's de-listing from the National Priorities List in March 2024.

Environmental Restoration, Individual/Team: Environmental Restoration Team, Vieques Naval Installation, Puerto Rico - Collaborated with U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command to integrate active-duty Navy explosive ordnance disposal dive units into the Vieques offshore munitions cleanup program. In 2023, the munitions cleanup program saved nearly $200,000 and doubled its cleanup productivity. The Navy's EOD dive units also improved their operational readiness associated with locating and handling underwater live ordnance.

Cultural Resources Management, Large Installation: Hill AFB, Utah -Accommodated requests and extended invitations for tribal leadership and youth visits to the Trackway Site, an archaeological site containing over 130 footprints more than 12,000 years old. Tribal leadership contributed perspectives on managing, protecting and sharing this singular archaeological site and other sites to build strong relationships and promote future cooperative efforts.

Environmental Excellence in Weapon Systems Acquisition, Individual/Team

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