Culturally diverse, environmentally aware

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert E. Suminsby Jr.
  • 377th Air Base Wing commander
Part of our mission, as it is for all Air Force bases, is to be conscientious stewards of the land and its resources and I believe we are doing an excellent job of caring for our environment. 

We are required to adhere to the same environmental regulations everyone has to follow regarding the tools and materials we use as a part of the Air Force Materiel Command. 

We are situated in an environmentally and culturally rich area, with its borders coming up against Cibola National Forest, the City of Albuquerque and the Isleta Pueblo. 

At first glance, our base looks like it doesn't have much except what we have put here in terms of facilities and landscaping. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The inhabited area is a small fraction of the base proper. There are cultural and historical resources here which are being protected for future generations and, although we usually see our wildlife in the form of the ubiquitous prairie dog, wildlife abounds, including some threatened and protected species. 

Among others, our goals are to identify, manage and protect the land and its resources, as well as educate our visitors here as we cooperate with outside agencies to ensure our consolidated efforts provide for the best possible maintenance and improvement of our environment, from our human inhabitants to the wildlife, artifacts and land. 

As the third largest base in the AFMC, the entire area of Kirtland is about 82 square miles, or 53,000 acres, and the improved and semi-improved area within is about 4,775 acres. This includes 1,980 acres of "improved land," areas with lawn or landscaping which need maintenance, as well as buildings, roads and parking lots. Landfills are also included in that designation. 

In accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act, a survey of Kirtland AFB identified over 600 archaeological resources and 200 significant historic facilities, all of which will be protected in compliance with federal laws. 

On the opposite side of the coin is the populated, urban aspect of being environmentally responsible. To that effect, the base has in place a plan for monitoring and correcting potentially damaging environmental factors including the storm drainage system, use of pesticides and herbicides, removal of pet feces, road maintenance measures such as salt application in the winter and even guidance for vehicle washing and maintenance. Also in place are plans to handle other contingencies more endemic to the operation of the base, such as its spill prevention control and an inspection schedule for all sites with hazardous materials and waste. 

The base has an active recycling program for oil, antifreeze, used filters, parts and cleaner fluids, and a contractor handles other recyclables such as paper, cardboard and aluminum. 

At Coyote Springs, one of the naturally occurring water sources here, there is a motion-sensitive camera and a water guzzler. The camera has captured deer, coyote, bear, mountain lion and many other wildlife species. There are plans to install guzzlers at other locations as well. The gray vireo is the only species on base which is listed as threatened. However, the burrowing owl, loggerhead shrike and mountain plover are species of concern. Also found here are jackrabbits, bobcats, bull snake, western diamondback rattlesnake and spadefoot toads. 

Our cultural resources include historic buildings and sites dating from European contact around 1540, as well as prehistoric sites dating from the Paleo-Indian Period to the Pueblo Period, approximately 9500 B.C. - 1300 A.D. There are 251 sites eligible to be in the National Register of Historic Preservation and an additional 173 are being evaluated for eligibility. Ongoing studies may uncover other cultural resources as yet unidentified. 

Our Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan provides for the protection and improvement of the natural environment. One of the primary goals is for us to educate the residents and visitors and to protect as well as appreciate our rich cultural and natural resources while continuing to excel in all that we do in support of the mission.