Earth Day was celebrated April 22 around the world and Fort Irwin participated in the observation that promotes support and community action for environmental protection.
Organizations on Army posts have traditionally supported the annual event (which began in 1970) and understand that sustaining the environment is actually an everyday responsibility, according to United States Army Environmental Command at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The USAEC states that observing Earth Day exemplifies the Army’s commitment of protecting the public resources entrusted to military care and provides an opportunity to focus attention on the Army’s environmental program.
At Fort Irwin, the Army and Air Force Exchange provided the community an opportunity to see the movie “Bears,” just a few days after it hit theaters nation-wide. The movie’s Web site explains that the film depicts “a year in the life of a bear family as two impressionable young cubs are taught life’s most important lessons.” The site also states that the release of the film was a way to celebrate Earth Day and that a portion of ticket sales from April 18-24 will go to the National Park Foundation. The Exchange, here, gave away teddy bears and gift bags to the first 25 families at the theater.
Mekayla, 3, and Nicholas Welch, 6, were the first in line and full of energy prior to the showing of “Bears.”
“I’m going to name him Teddy,” Mekayla said about the stuffed toy she received.
Exchange manager Lynn Thompson said the movie is a wonderful documentary.
“It’s really a good educational movie about the bear’s environment and how it’s changing,” Thompson said.
As important as it is for bears to care for their young, the Army does its share to protect resources at installations. At the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, the Environmental Division of Directorate of Public Works is charged with the everyday mission of conserving wildlife and cultural resources in 1,200 square miles of terrain. The division briefs Soldiers, conducts outreach events, and hosts visitors to its facility to educate about those resources and what the community here can do to help.
For this year’s Earth Day celebration, the division provided a team of experts and displays during the Fort Irwin festival “Spring Fling,” March 29. At the festival, biologists explained to community members the habits and behaviors of animals such as badgers, owls, snakes and the desert tortoise. Anthropologists talked about the people who inhabited the area thousands of years ago and left behind petroglyphs and artifacts. Opportunities to view up close those resources can contribute to better understanding, said Matthew Yacubic, lead archeologist with DPW.
“Once we’re all aware of what is out there and we learn about them, we can relate to them better,” Yacubic said. “It’s not just something you hear about from a person, but when you see it up close – you see an artifact in your hand or you see a live tortoise – it brings a deeper level of appreciation.”
Protecting and studying petroglyphs that exist throughout the NTC leads to cultural appreciation of Native Americans, who created them, and of their descendents today, Yacubic stated.
“These are things that were here before [us] and these were important – and still are important – to many people,” Yacubic said. “We have evidence of people at Fort Irwin going all the way back to about 8,000 B.C.”
The arid conditions here and the Army’s role as caretaker have contributed to the longevity of resources.
“This place is great for archaeology, because it’s a desert environment – so it preserves things well,” Yacubic said. “This is an Army installation, but in a lot of ways, a conservation place as well. It’s not necessarily open to the public, which means a lot of things are protected and are preserved here – and we are the stewards of this land.”