Camp Ripley made a lot of noise this summer - and we don't just mean the artillery that rattled area windows.
The 53,000-acre Minnesota Army National Guard training center attracted the attention of such political luminaries as Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., by winning a Secretary of Defense Environmental Award. Biden presented officials the award at a ceremony at the Pentagon this month.
The camp, one of the largest landholders between Little Falls and Brainerd, obviously places great importance in environmental stewardship. Partnering with the DNR, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Nature Conservancy, Camp Ripley has conducted a reforestation program, safeguarded 22,000 acres and has worked to protect the ecosystem along the Mississippi River.
The National Guard camp, which employs about 650 full-time personnel, coordinates a variety of conservation activities with its training mission. There are an estimated 10,000 visitors a year to the Martin J. Skoglund Environmental Classroom. Spearheading most of the camp's environmental projects has been Marty Skoglund, the environmental supervisor who has worked there for 23 years.
Plant and animal life thrive at Camp Ripley with surveys identifying 565 plant species, 126 resident bird species, 41 fish species, 51 mammal species. Included in this wildlife haven are bald eagles, black bears, white-tailed deer, timber wolves.
The recognition demonstrates how skilled the National Guard is at doing more than one thing well. Camp Ripley serves as a first-rate military training ground and also as an environment that's home to an estimated 30 deer per square mile. Now that's multi-tasking.
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