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Team Andersen goes greener with reforestation of endangered species habitat

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Melissa B. White
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Team Andersen members put in some time and effort toward completing a green initiative on Andersen Air Force Base April 12. The results were, in fact, a little greener as the nearly 20 volunteers worked with the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron and the Guam National Wildlife Refuge on maintaining a limestone reforestation project that is also an endangered species habitat at Northwest Field.

"The project demonstrates the Air Force's commitment to forest stewardship and enhancing continued existence of the unique flora and fauna on Guam for future generations," said Leanne Obra, 36th CES Environmental Flight natural resources specialist.

The volunteers, mainly from the 36th CES Environmental Flight Volunteer Conservation Officer Program, used simple gardening tools to remove invasive plants in order to provide a more nurturing environment for nearly 1,000 juvenile trees. The site is home to 17 newly-planted native limestone forest tree species, to include the Yoga, Ifit and Ahgao trees. These trees provide vital habitat for the threatened and endangered Mariana fruit bat.

"It makes me feel proud to be part of a project where the goal is reforestation of endemic plants in Guam," said Mark Ishmael, 36th CES VCO. "This is important to the future generations of Guam and I look forward to watching the plants grow and coming out again to help with this great project."

The 3.5-acre area of limestone forest, known at Achae Point, was originally cleared in 2011 in order for the base to construct an anti-terrorism, force-protection perimeter fence. The base then collaborated with the refuge to mitigate the damage by developing a plan to reforest two acres of the cleared area with a project starting that same year.

The years-long project first started with an installation of a fence in 2011 to keep out wild deer and pigs. In January 2013, 36th CES and Guam National Wildlife Refuge employees supported a contract company by collecting native seeds from trees on base to be re-planted later for the project. The seeds were grown in the contractor's greenhouse until they were transplanted at the site in November 2013 and maintained by the contractor until April. The project is now stable and officially turned over to the 36th CES. April 12 was the first time the 36th CES decided to team up with the wildlife refuge and volunteers to take maintenance efforts of the land into their own hands.

"Care is critical in the beginning stages of the plants' growth in order to keep away non-native plants for at least the first year as they mature," Obra said. "I am confident that with the care during the early stages of growth that the forest will thrive as they grow into the site and become a great resource for endangered species since they are native plants."

Obra said she plans to invite groups to the site quarterly in order to help with maintenance and care. The reforestation site will provide volunteers with an educational opportunity to learn about Guam's native plants and to see how the Air Force is making efforts to aid the recovery of natural habitats for endangered and threated species.

For more information on volunteering as an organization for the reforestation project, contact the 36th CES Environmental Flight at 366-5078.