Tell Our Story: JBLM promotes ecosystem functions throughout its 90,000 acres!

The Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan (NWSP) is the guiding document of the Nisqually River Council. It has 11 indicators, each of which promotes social, economic, and ecological integrity – the 3 branches of a sustainable community. As a part of our monthly blog, we highlight actions, projects and stories from the Nisqually Watershed and surrounding region that contribute to a sustainable watershed and further the goals of the NWSP. This month, we focus on recreation opportunities, and the important role that recreation plays in promoting healthy communities.

The Fish and Wildlife Program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is part of the Nisqually River Council; Amber Martens, a biologist with JBLM, is featured in our guest blog post this week.  Amber describes how JBLM works to promote ecosystem functions — one of the NWSP indicators — and how the NRC is an important partner in that effort.  Enjoy! 

What is your title?  How long have you been involved with the Nisqually River Council?

Wildlife Biologist at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) Fish and Wildlife Program. I have been representing JBLM Fish and Wildlife Program at the Nisqually River Council Meeting since 2015.

One of the Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan’s topics is ecosystem functions.  What does your organization do to promote ecosystem functions? (i.e., what are the priorities, current projects, etc.) 

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a 90,600 acre military reservation that lies in upland glacial plain at the southern end of the Puget Sound lowland, located within Pierce and Thurston counties, in western Washington. These training lands encompass multiple ecosystems including urban areas, forested lands, riparian and wetlands, oak woodlands, and approximately 12,000 acres of south Puget Sound prairies; some of the largest remaining contiguous tracts of native prairie in the south Puget Sound. Numerous species are found on these lands including several aquatic and terrestrial endangered species: Puget Sound Chinook, Steelhead, 3 species of rockfish, Oregon spotted frogs, water Howellia, Mazama pocket gopher, streak horned lark, and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Environmental Division develops and manages environmental programs necessary for JBLM to meet its stewardship responsibility to protect and conserve the environment, while supporting troop readiness and training missions. The JBLM Fish and Wildlife Program Mission is:

“Protect, maintain, and enhance various ecosystems on the installation to promote native biodiversity and support the military mission”

Due to the diversity of ecosystems and myriad species living on JBLM, the Fish and Wildlife Program utilizes an assortment of restoration tools for habitat management. A major focus at JBLM is on prairie ecosystem restoration and coordination with military training to reduce the impacts to endangered species and simultaneously improve training lands.

Managing endangered species habitat on a military reservation provides a rare opportunity to utilize prescribed fires throughout the summer months. This is an effective tool for prairie restoration, since prairies are fire adapted ecosystems, and an excellent alternative to herbicides for controlling invasive species like Scot’s broom. Interestingly, the artillery impact area is inadvertently set on fire each summer from training operations, has some of the highest quality prairie in Washington State and contains one of the south Puget Sound’s last remaining natural populations of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies.

What is the value you see in the NRC, and how does it help your organization fulfill goals?

Participating in the Nisqually River Council provides JBLM Fish and Wildlife Program the opportunity to collaborate on restoration projects, community outreach, and demonstrate to the surrounding community our commitment to sound stewardship of the Nisqually Watershed.