Balancing military training with conservation on the Orchard Combat Training Center

Posted at 3:27 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 18:51:44-04

BOISE — The Idaho National Guard trains on the Orchard Combat Training Center in the desert south of Boise, however, it is the only military training area in the country located inside a national conservation area.

The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA has the highest concentration of nesting raptors in North America and partnerships are required to for the heavy machinery of the military and the conservation of native plants and animals to coexist.

"We have to manage that with a lot of partners," said Charlie Baun the Conservation Branch Manager for the Idaho National Guard. "The BLM is one of our biggest partners, it's their land but we manage it in cooperation with the BLM."

Which means the public can access the OCTC for recreational use, it's an open area for cattle to graze and mixing the public on a military training area has it's challenges.

"We do see a lot of public activity out there especially with regards to recreational shooting so we want to encourage people when you are out in that area there are soldiers training so we ask that you do any of your activities responsibly," said Amanda Hoffman of the BLM Boise District.

The OCTC is also a place where people dump their garbage and as Boise continues to grow these challenges will likely grow with it which is ironic because when the National Guard started training on the OCTC in the 1950's the range was in the middle of nowhere.

"The OCTC is one of the very few military installations in the United States that is not off limits to the public," said Baun.

The Idaho National Guard helps the BLM preserve the Birds of Prey NCA because of funding from the Department of Defense and when we took a Blackhawk helicopter flight over the area it was very clear where the boundary was because the OCTC is so much greener than the surrounding area, the partnerships also have their advantages.

"We have the opportunity to support their training mission," said Hoffman. "In return they really support our resource conservation and protection measures out there especially with all the inventory monitoring that they are able to fund and participate in."

The Idaho National Guard also works with Native American tribes who lived in this area before they were driven out of the Treasure Valley a long time ago, cultural resource specialists helps preserve any artifacts that get discovered, it is illegal to remove any cultural artifacts from the OCTC.

In our next episode we will show you some of the work that conservation specialists employed by the National Guard do inside the OCTC.