WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – On Earth Day 2021, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base actively celebrates its legacy as a habitat for both runways and waterways, as well as native species and engineered inventions.
Although health precautions kept festivities small this year, the 88th Civil Engineer Group’s Environmental Management Branch upheld the commemoration’s official theme, “Restore Our Earth,” within the gates April 8 by planting 300 seedlings along the banks of Trout Creek across from Huffman Prairie. The native trees will provide a habitat friendlier to endangered or threatened bat populations.
“The base is home to many unique natural areas that provide a habitat for many uncommon and federally listed plant and animal species,” said Danielle Trevino, a biological scientist with 88 CEG. “We are fully committed to the stewardship of this land, for the sake of the flora and fauna that call it home and for the enjoyment of our Airmen and the general public. Our work does more than protect and sustain the environment. It fosters our relationships on and off the installation, which ultimately maximizes our mission effectiveness.”
The 88th Civil Engineer Group has spent years making way for the seedlings, hosting past Earth Day events to remove invasive honeysuckle that crowded out other plants around Trout Creek. In the future, the team hopes to convert the area’s currently mowed grass into yet another natural pollinator habitat.
“This area is a great highlight of the work Wright-Patterson does to protect and enhance native habitats,” Trevino said. “In the same vicinity is Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark. This is an area we have put years of effort into restoring and protecting.”
For this year’s Earth Day, the Environmental Management Branch also planted additional native pollinator flora into pre-existing habitats on base to continue sustaining butterflies, hummingbirds and many other native-pollinator species.
“Wright-Patterson is a ‘Bee City USA’ community, which is a tribute to our work to protect and enhance pollinator populations,” Trevino said. “We have several pollinator habitats throughout the base, to include one we planted with the Youth Center several years ago.”
As the airfield on Area A welcomes aluminum aircraft every day, the adjacent Huffman Prairie is home to birds that inspired aeronautical efforts. Wright-Patt partners with the National Park Service, Five Rivers MetroParks and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to preserve the land as both a natural and historic testament to its roots.
In 1904, the Wright brothers struck a deal with local banker Torrence Huffman to use his pasture on the outskirts of Dayton rent-free, provided they steer grazing cows to safety before hitting the air. This 84-acre field, which Wilbur called an “old swamp...that resembles a prairie-dog town,” became the runway for 150 of their flights, the developmental lab for the first practical plane in history, and the training grounds for hundreds more military and civilian pilots.
Now Ohio’s largest surviving prairie remnant, the humble patch hosts over 200 species of moths and 30 species of butterflies, as well as pollinators and birds, many rare.
“This native prairie is now in wonderful shape, and we are thrilled to be branching out to further enhance and restore the surrounding natural areas of the installation,” Trevino said.
“We look forward to an entire week of Earth Day celebrations next year, when we can gather. We have preliminary plans to collaborate with Fairborn City Schools, the Youth Center, the city of Fairborn and our local Soil and Water Conservation District to plan a week of great opportunities for base personnel and the general public to get involved in celebrating Earth Day.”
But preservation need not stop at organizational efforts, Trevino said. Individuals can cultivate their own yards into native Ohio flora- and fauna-friendly spaces, no matter how small.
“It is so easy for individuals to ‘make a difference’ this Earth Day,” she added. “One of the easiest ways is to plant native habitat. Once these habitats are planted, they are extremely low-maintenance.”
For more information on future events or how you can help support Wright-Patt’s natural environment, contact Trevino at firstname.lastname@example.org.