Camp Ripley also had $2.3 million in local projects in ‘13
By Patrick Slack, Staff Writer
Earlier in the night, members of a public forum suggested that Camp Ripley is a culprit in damaging in the environment.
Not so, said Col. Scott St. Sauver, during a presentation later on during Monday’s Little Falls City Council meeting.
“We are stewards of our environment and we have to be stewards of our environment,” he said.
Part of that stewardship involves conducting continual environmental studies at the base, including one taking place now on black bears.
Camp Ripley is currently participating for the Army Environmental Quality Award, in which it won the National Guard division and is now up against the Department of Defense.
Just a few years ago, something like this wouldn’t have seemed possible, St. Sauver said.
“Not too many years ago, I would have never thought you’d see the Army and the Nature Conservancy teaming up to do good things,” he said. “And they are one of my closest allies. We have a lot of the same goals, especially in the ACUB (Army Compatible Use Buffer) program, of being able to secure land and being able to secure the facilities we need to be able to train our soldiers.
“We have been told to be ready to expect year-end money from the federal government, so this program is a testament to the citizens of Morrison County, Crow Wing County and Cass to get together and to really look at protecting our boundaries of Camp Ripley with compatible land use,” St. Sauver said.
The presentation also outlined the economic impact Camp Ripley has on the surrounding community, with $2.31 million worth of local projects taking place in the past year.
“With the budget sequestrations at the federal level, we are very fortunate over the last 12 years we have been able to complete the projects that we were really looking forward to completing to meet the next 10, 15 years,” St. Sauver said.
“The numbers that I watch closely, quite frankly, are our local contracts,” he said. “I like this number to be about $3 million a year. We were a little under that last year, it was a little lighter than I would have liked. This year I suspect that number will be up around $3 million. That’s money that’s generated locally in the area … It’s a good indicator of how healthy we are and what we’re putting back into our communities.”
Regarding public concern about Camp Ripley’s environmental impact, St. Sauver said that anyone who wishes to see is welcome to visit and take a look.
“We are constantly in a monitoring process,” he said. “We are 100 percent compliant with all of the state, federal and local environmental regulations. We have some great science out there that anyone can come out and see. Come out and see us and we’d be more than happy to show you what we do in those areas.”
Little Falls Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem agreed that Camp Ripley has strong environmental credentials, citing a conference on eco- and cultural-tourism in Breezy Point.
“One of the big things they had talked about is that there had been a study on dragonflies … The dragonfly, apparently, is one of the insects that if the environment is a hazard, they are the first that die or leave,” she said. “They have dragonflies out at Camp Ripley that they don’t even have a name for it, that they are not found anywhere else that anybody can detect.”
St. Sauver added that Camp Ripley also has the largest nesting population of red-shouldered hawks in the Midwest, and that simply by providing ample room for these animals is key.
“A lot of the problems with wildlife species really is density. It’s people and the way the land is used that affects those animals,” St. Sauver said.
“It’s not the military traffic that bothers them, it’s density and loss of habitat,” he said. “And we keep those habitats.”