By Shelli-Kae Foster, YES! Program Director
I had the opportunity to join students from Marty Bratsch and Jeannie Omvig’s YES! team at Royalton High School on a tour of Camp Ripley on Friday, November 1st. Together, we learned about their commitment to conservation, how Camp Ripley supports the local community with Fire and Rescue efforts, and about the use of drones for conservation and military efforts.
Overall the military manages 30 million acres of land in the United States. At Camp Ripley they manage 53,000 acres. This large expanse of land is used for training for the National Guard and hosts the largest game refuge in Minnesota. It is a unique location because it is the forest transitional zone. They control 18 miles of river front on the Mississippi River. Resource Manager Katherine Retka stated, “we know what we do on the land affects our water” and “Camp Ripley is vital for maintaining clean water downstream.” They conduct 5 different tests on the river to ensure it is clean including clarity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity and pH.
Camp Ripley generates over 10 mega-watts of solar, enough to power the entire base at its peak. Peak energy usage times are in the summer when the Camp is in full swing to train 6,000 National Guard troops. Extra energy is sold back to the local utility.
We learned about 3 different types of drones, how they are used (hand thrown or launched) and for what type of a mission. It was interesting to find out that drones are also used to gather data on the bear, wolves and other animals that live there.
A highlight for all was a ride in a huge fire truck around the base!
Major funding for the YES! program was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).