Fort Hunter Liggett
Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML) biologists work day and night to combat the American Bullfrog invasive species at Fort Hunter Liggett. Unfortunately, these bullfrogs are found in almost every waterway and pond at the Army installation. (Contributed)

JOLON — Earth Day showcases the U.S. Army’s exemplary environmental stewardship in places such as Fort Hunter Liggett (FHL), the largest Army Reserve installation, that is a gem not only for military training, but also for its expansive habitat for wildlife and natural resources.

The remoteness and diversity of the landscapes at FHL supports a variety of plants and animals while providing varied terrains for realistic military training environment.

“It is a blessing to work in this beautiful environment,” said Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Trotter. “It may seem like an oxymoron for some that the military actually plays a huge role in protecting threatened and endangered species, but we actually have a significant environmental program with staff working closely with military trainers to avoid historical, cultural and protected areas.”

The FHL Public Works Environmental Division partners with California Conservation Corps (CCC) through an Intergovernmental Support Agreement (IGSA) that outlines a 10-year plan to remove the invasive salt cedar (Tamarix parvilflora) to improve the San Antonio River habitat for the endangered arroyo toad (Anaxyrus californicus). 

Each year, the CCC will remove a section of plants by hand and then chips the material outside of the active flood zone. Herbicide is applied directly to the cut stumps to prevent resprout.

Fort Hunter Liggett
California Conservation Corps members haul out cut tamarisk as part of a tamarisk removal project to improve arroyo toad habitat in the San Antonio River at Fort Hunter Liggett. (Contributed)

The CCC Los Padres Santa Maria crew of eight began this project in August 2023 and will return later this year to continue efforts.

“We set up a spike camp in which we lived, camped in tents, and cooked all our meals for eight straight days,” said Ben Herbert, CCC Project Coordinator. “It was a special experience because it gave us a chance to work in areas civilians usually don’t get to see.”

CCC also appreciated the chance to explain their mission and learn about FHL’s environmental mission.

The FHL Environmental Division evaluates the success of the project by conducting plant and stream channel surveys. The removal of invasive plants also promotes growth of native species and a drought tolerant environment.

The arroyo toad was listed as endangered on Dec. 16, 1994. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it can only be found along the central and southern coast of California to the northwest of Baja California, Mexico. 

The species faces a variety of threats to its survival, reproduction and persistence. These threats include non-native predators and plants, disease, water withdrawals, agricultural and urban development, pollution, and natural disturbances (e.g., drought and climate change).

“The arroyo toad population at Fort Hunter Liggett is struggling because the natural vegetation is choking out prime breeding habitat for the species,” said Jackie Hancock, the FHL Environmental Division project lead. “The salt cedar exacerbates the problem because its massive root balls hold on to the sediment which alters the stream channel morphology unfavorably. It also draws a lot more water from the ground than the native plants, changing the hydrology around dense stands.”

Fort Hunter Liggett
Treated tamarisk stands (left) among untreated stands (right) in the San Antonio River at Fort Hunter Liggett. (Contributed)

Hancock adds that she’s excited to see the plan that has been in the works for many years finally put into action.

“It will take several years to eradicate the salt cedar, but I’m optimistic that we’ll get there,” Hancock said.

“We rely on IGSAs and cooperative agreements to assist with our natural resources program. Managing 12 threatened and endangered species and implementing our Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan is a huge undertaking,” said Liz Clark, Public Works Environmental Chief.

The FHL Environmental Division has an Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan, which provides the framework for meeting the Army goal to systematically conserve biological diversity under the principles of ecosystem management.

“Intergovernmental Support Agreements help us meet our mission requirements and save the Army money,” said Brian Lucid, FHL Support Agreements Specialist. “We estimate the agreement with California Conservation Corps saves us $10,000 per year compared to a commercial contract for the same service.”

Army installations host some of the most diverse and unique plant and wildlife communities in the nation and maintains millions of acres of healthy forests through partnering with federal and state foresters to apply best management practices. 

To learn how the Army protects, preserves, conserves and restores natural and cultural resources, visit

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Fort Hunter Liggett


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