By Col. Scott St. Sauver, Guest Columnist
I would like to address a recent letter as it relates to Camp Ripley’s environmental management program. I respect individual freedom to express opinion and appreciate the opportunity to respond. The mission of Camp Ripley is only as strong as the environment and communities within which it belongs. Our philosophy of maintaining the “Triple Bottom Line” of mission, environment and community are paramount to our success.
As the Post Commander, my primary goal is to ensure that our soldiers and civilian customers receive the highest level of training possible because their lives depend on it. Camp Ripley’s state of the art training facilities are integral to achieving this goal while equally important is a quality training environment. The health, safety, and well-being of our soldiers, civilian customers, families and communities depend on it. We live here, work here and raise our families here making environmental management one of my most important considerations every day.
Camp Ripley has been recognized repeatedly at the state and national level for accomplishments in protecting the environment. These accomplishments are a collaborative effort complementing partnerships with numerous state, federal and local agencies. We also rely heavily on the scientific contributions from academic institutions such as Saint Cloud State University, University of Minnesota and Central Lakes College.
We maintain a very robust land, air and water monitoring program and for over 25 years have met not only our regulatory reporting requirements but also our responsibility and accountability to our citizenry as the stewards of 53,000 acres of “pure” Minnesota. Did you know that the strongest indicators of a healthy environment are the flora and fauna that are documented within that ecosystem? Camp Ripley has over 60 “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” highlighting an ecological diversity not only unique to Minnesota but the entire Midwest. We have the second largest concentration of Blanding’s turtles in the state, largest nesting population of Red Shouldered Hawks in the Midwest, a premier white-tail deer population, and over 650 species of plant life.
While petroleum, munitions and other wastes are inherent to all military operations they do not pose a hazard when managed in accordance with all environmental regulations which is the case at Camp Ripley. Hazardous wastes generated on Camp Ripley during operations are not disposed of on the installation. They are carefully packaged and shipped to a permitted treatment and disposal facility. In doing so it embodies our philosophy of managing hazardous materials from “cradle to grave” to ensure environmental protection.
The idea of spewing contaminants into the environment is alarming and could not be any further from the truth. Live-fire bombing, while interesting terminology, doesn’t accurately reflect what the Army calls live fire service practice. We do conduct live fire of all small and large caliber weapon systems including tanks, cannons, and rockets. We also maintain the capability to air deliver munitions ordinance into our impact areas though we have not conducted this type of training in many years. We have not nor will we use depleted uranium for any of our operations. For many of our large caliber systems we use training ammunition designed specifically to reduce the environmental impact. With the exception of herbicides that are used in accordance with strict regulations to control noxious and invasive vegetation, defoliants are not used on Camp Ripley.
A true testament to the condition of Camp Ripley’s environment is the results from years of comprehensive monitoring our water resources. Studies dating back to the mid-1980s have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that military operations have not been detrimental. Ground water monitoring results have documented full compliance with safe drinking water standards. The water quality of all Camp Ripley streams is superior to that of the Mississippi River where they discharge. An interesting scientific fact of water quality is the diversity of the dragon fly population. While Morrison County has seven species of dragon flies, Camp Ripley has documented 37 species and this is directly linked to the quality of our installation’s water resources.
We invite anyone interested in seeking more information on our environmental management program to contact us at anytime. The Minnesota National Guard is steadfast in its stewardship of the environment and I am confident that our track record at Camp Ripley speaks for itself.
Col. Scott St. Sauver is the Post Commander at Camp Ripley, Little Falls.