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NEWS | May 1, 2019

JBLE celebrates Earth Week

By Senior Airman Delaney Gonzales 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Earth Day is an international holiday celebrated around the world April 22nd to demonstrate support for environmental protection and the significance of preserving natural resources.  JBLE recognized the occasion by sponsoring numerous conservation themed events on the installations from April 22 to April 26.

The week-long observance encouraged community support for participation in activities such as nature trail maintenance projects, recycling programs, Box Turtle surveys, and more.

“It’s a refresher course--everyone needs to be reminded about the importance and ways of protecting our planet,” said Joanna Bateman, 733rd Civil Engineer Division pollution prevention branch chief.

The week kicked off with a dry retention pond clean-up, preventing harmful substances from reaching the base’s streams, lakes, rivers and ponds.

“Waste collects in dry retention ponds and the ground filters it before it seeps into underground waterways or into bodies of water such as the James or Warwick River,” added Donna Haynes, 733rd CED environmental protection specialist.

With the help of volunteers, nature trails were spruced up to present a spotless appearance, thus eliminating waste products that propose a potential threat to the base’s wildlife.

Not only did the activity serve to protect the ecosystems on base, but also promoted awareness of the installation’s hidden gems.

“A lot of people are not aware that we have a nature trail,” noted Haynes. These environmental conservation activities help to get the information out to the public about the resources available on base.”

The alluring landscape of the base’s precious ecosystems can help bring a personal touch to the significance of its preservation.

“On Wednesday we offered a boat tour to community members to showcase the installation’s nature and the wildlife that inhabits it, specifically the Ospreys and Bald Eagles,” Haynes stated. “We have close to 11 active Bald Eagle’s nests on Fort Eustis. They mate for life and come back to the same nest every year.”

Box Turtles are another organism residing within our gates. They are closely monitored, specifically through data collection detailing their proliferation as a species.

Volunteers searched forested training areas on the base and successfully documented eight Box Turtles for the survey.

“It is important to know that the population is growing in a normal fashion,” said Haynes. “They are marked to see how well they are growing and thriving in the area.”

Education about recycling programs was also featured during the Earth Week festivities.

“We educated the installation staff about recycling to divert waste from the landfill,” Bateman said. “We have a lot of construction that takes place on the installation.  Building supplies that are used by our contractors are often shrink wrapped with plastic. Those plastics would have been disposed of in the trash, but are now being set aside to be recycled, thus preventing them from going into a landfill.”

“During our six-month long America’s Recycle Day Initiative, we collected 1,470 pounds of plastic,” Haynes added.

Through partnership, shared ideas can create innovative ways to carry out a common goal.

“In events like The BBC Community Fun Fair, you get the opportunity to partner with other people and to see what initiative steps they have taken so good ideas can be implemented at other locations on the installation,” Bateman said. “So it’s good to get that interaction and partnership.”

Each year, Earth Week helps to generate new tactics to protect the planet. The growing numbers of volunteers help spread awareness of the installations’ ever changing ecosystems, which in turn promotes environmental health beyond our local community to the world at large.