MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
Editor’s note: This is the third article of an eight-part series on Inside Installation & Environment Division.
Marines and civilian-Marines aren’t the only ones who call Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany home. In fact, according to base officials, it is home to one species that is listed as threatened by the State of Georgia, the gopher tortoise. Habitats exist for other threatened and endangered species such as the Eastern indigo snake, alligator snapping turtle, and wood stork, but at this time none of them make MCLB their home. Al Belanger, conservation law enforcement officer, Environmental Branch, Installation and Environment Division, is also known as the game warden.
“My primary responsibilities are the law enforcement aspect of fishing, hunting and boating aboard MCLB Albany. Part of that is conducting routine compliance checks during hunting season to ensure they are in compliance with state and federal regulations,” he said. “I also go out and conduct a deer census to keep wildlife balanced and manageable here on base.”
Living in South Georgia, Belanger said most days he responds to nuisance calls for wildlife such as alligators, raccoons, possums and snakes.
“One of the residents in housing left her door open and had a possum come in and start eating her cat’s food, then took a nap under her couch. We had to go in to remove the animal and return it to the outdoors,” he said.
Recalling other nuisance calls, Belanger said he has received calls regarding the turkey vultures eating cat food and fighting with stray cats.
“We have a diverse environment here being fenced in so we have a lot of wildlife that you normally would not see out in town. Some of the wildlife who call MCLB home are turkey buzzards, turkey vultures, deer, raccoons, rattlesnakes and other non-poisonous snakes,” Belanger said. “There are also quite a few black-faced fox squirrels, which we protect just because there aren’t many of them around.”
Individuals may not think of MCLB Albany as a wildlife preservation area, but according to Belanger, federal and state laws mandate an integrated natural resource management plan.
“It is a comprehensive program that regulates wildlife and land management programs aboard the base. We have approximately 3,500 acres here on base that include three managed fishing ponds and recreational hunting areas for deer and small game, which are open to active duty service members, their dependents and other personnel with base access,” the game warden said.
Belanger said he has a lot of interaction with the state wildlife biologists because they come down from Atlanta to conduct surveys on threatened or endangered species. Area schools and scouts regularly visit the base for the one-half mile trip down the boardwalk to look at the swamp and indigenous wildlife that call this 90-acre peat bog sightseeing area home.
“The base is a safe haven because not everyone has access to the installation. Our wildlife management program preserves what we have and helps us to plan for future growth,” he said. “We also have a lot of school groups that visit to explore our wildlife area and nature trail for educational and recreational purposes.
Belanger said he manages two nature trails, one at the Indian Lake Wildlife Refuge and the other on the west end of Building 3500. The nature trail offers students and other visitors the opportunity to see a variety of animals like alligators, hens, coots and other wildlife.
“We take students and other visitors out and explain what each of the animals are, what they are here for and how they are important to our ecosystem. We have probably one of the largest turkey vulture roosts in the area. Most people think they’re just buzzards, but I call them mother nature’s garbage disposal,” he said. “They will eat just about anything and everything, so they are really good to have around and they are a federally protected species.”
Brian Wallace, branch head, Environment Division, I&E, said the base presents an excellent opportunity for residents and employees to observe our wildlife in their natural habitats if they take the time to visit Indian Lake Wildlife Refuge or go hiking through the woods.
“It is the responsibility of the game warden to protect our wildlife and ensure they have a safe place to live and it is a responsibility Belanger takes pride in and does an excellent job of,” he said.