Preserving Nature, Empowering Launch

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Quijas
  • Space Launch Delta 30 Public Affairs

Vandenberg SFB boasts a landscape that few military installations possess, with 118,000 acres and over 40 miles of coastline, it has sometimes been likened to living on a natural preserve. 

The 30th Civil Engineer Squadron’s natural resources managers are charged with protecting the base’s natural resources, supporting wildfire management, and measuring the impact of launch operations and ensuring adherence to environmental laws and regulations.

“The office maintains multiple licenses, permits, and other agreements with regulators to include: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California Coastal Commission to name a few,” said Rhys Evans, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron lead natural resources program manager.

The environmental office is integral to enabling space launch on Vandenberg, and ensuring the impact to the base’s marine mammals and natural resources are monitored and analyzed. They are charged with monitoring reactions of seabirds, shorebirds, amphibians and marine mammals. They also participate in the Airfield Operations Board and the Bird-Wildlife Airstrike Hazard avoidance program.

Vandenberg SFB is home to a diverse range of wildlife, with over 350 species inhabiting the area. The environmental team plays a crucial role in the conservation and protection of this wildlife, particularly focusing on 11 federally threatened and endangered species of animals and six plants.

“The primary objective of Air Force natural resources programs, in particular threatened and endangered species management,  is to conserve and recover these species consistent with the use of the installation to ensure the readiness of the Armed Forces,” said Samantha Kaisersatt, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental conservation chief. “Natural resources management ensures no net loss in the capability of Air Force lands to support the military mission of the installation.”

Vandenberg ranks second in DoD installations within the continental United States for the number of terrestrial federally threatened and endangered species.  The base also hosts three species that are under review for federal listing: the Monarch butterfly, Western Spadefoot (toad) and Southwestern Pond Turtle.

The environmental team has been actively studying pond turtles on the installation for over a decade, gaining valuable insights into their behavior, habitat, and conservation needs. “We don’t have exact numbers on their population,” said Rhys Evans, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron lead natural resources program manager. “However, we’ve found them in many of our lakes, ponds, all of our creeks, and the Santa Ynez River.”

The environmental office not only works to conserve the present, but they also work to cultivate the love of environmental conservation in future generations.

“We support environmental education in classrooms from 3rd graders to college students and beyond,” said Evans. “We also educate and advise active-duty military and their dependents, as well as the general public. We have a unique ongoing project with Brigham Young University in Utah, but locally, we work very closely with many campuses of the University of California, including Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield, Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, and others.”

The Vandenberg SFB team of environmental conservation specialists will continue to contribute to the long-term protection of the base’s natural resources and education of base personnel and community members for years to come.