CAMP PENDLETON — Across Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton’s 125,000 acres of land is a wide variety of wildlife. One of the top priorities for base officials is to help preserve the natural habitats and wildlife aboard Camp Pendleton.
Camp Pendleton’s land represents the largest stretch of undeveloped wilderness and coastline in Southern California. There are many different procedures, operations and day-to-day activities base officials use to protect it.
The wildlife ecosystem on Camp Pendleton is monitored and maintained by game wardens with the base’s Environmental Security Department. When it comes to keeping track of specific populations, the base game wardens launched Operation Buck Rogers to count mule deer on base. With the various natural disasters and rigorous military training that occur on Camp Pendleton, it is essential to keep track of the wildlife over the years. Game wardens have to ensure the wildlife is not being affected in a negative manner. Without the deer, natural ecosystems on Camp Pendleton will fall apart.
“This is important because, in the Western United States, mule deer are on the decline, so we see fewer and fewer of them every year,” said Michael Tucker, a game warden with Environmental Security Department, MCB Camp Pendleton. “They are an important species, they manage the vegetation, they’re part of the food web, they’re the primary source of food for mountain lions.”
When it comes to Marines being able to conduct training, maintaining and protecting the environment is extremely important, especially during the wildfire season where the environment is most susceptible to significant damage. Studies show there are certain instances where controlled burns and traditional wildfires can make a positive impact on the environment by clearing areas to safely conduct training, clearing invasive plants lingering in certain animal’s habitats, and protecting endangered plant species.
“We do a lot of preventative measures, one of them being controlled burns,” said Deborah Bieber, Land Management section head for Environmental Security Department, MCB Camp Pendleton. “We look for areas where the Marines need to train, but the way they’re training may have a risk to cause a fire, so we’ll go in and do a controlled burn to remove all the fuels so that the Marines can conduct their training.”
Camp Pendleton is also a vital nesting ground for various types of endangered birds in California.
In March 2019, breeding grounds for the California Least Tern flooded, resulting in the destruction of the original flatland area. Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, volunteered its services by moving sand from the foredunes running along the coastline to a location in the middle of the tern colony.
“I think it is wonderful to see how (the operating forces) work with us to preserve our environment,” said Katrina Murbock, a wildlife biologist with Environmental Security’s wildlife management section. “We can all agree there is a lot of amazing wildlife out here, but also a lot of amazing training. The fact that we were able to make (those) go hand-in-hand speaks highly of the Marine Corps.”