Base Lakes Foliage
/ Published November 13, 2015
Ellsworth AFB, S.D. --
The Commander' s Action Line is a forum for the Ellsworth community to make suggestions or voice concerns about Ellsworth directly to Col. Gentry Boswell, 28th Bomb Wing commander.
I'd like to address my concern with the cutting down of the cattails and foliage around the base lakes. Someone told me it was being done to reduce the nesting and so fishermen can have access to the lakes. Now the lakes just look a mess with the foliage torn up. I always thought before changes to the environment were made there had to be an environmental impact study done and the study had to be posted publicly. If a study was conducted, I don't see it posted on the Ellsworth homepage like they have been in the past. If the reason was for fishermen to have access, aren't there already docks that provide safe access to fish from? It seems wasteful to destroy the beauty and safe haven of the foliage just to provide fishing access. I hope there's a better reason.
Bottom line--the clearing operation was not done to enhance fishing. The cattails were removed purely in the interest of aviation safety; the safety of our Airmen and aircraft are the paramount concern in this regard. The cattails at the base lakes had grown out of control and were attracting large numbers of waterfowl that were not simply migrating but nesting and remaining in the area posing a significant hazard to our operations. Our 28th Civil Engineer Squadron works continuously with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain the appropriate balance ensuring our ability to conduct operations safely without undue impact to the environment. The recent changes you see at the lakes removing the vegetation were no exception to that practice. For a reference point I would offer the E-3 crash that happened Sept. 22, 1995 [near Elmendorf AFB, Alaska]; that aircraft flew through a flock of geese on takeoff departure and crashed killing all 24 crewmembers aboard. The subsequent investigation revealed that the base had several areas that had not been dealt with appropriately to mitigate very obvious wildlife hazards to aircraft operations. That is a hard lesson paid for in lives that we do not forget.