|It was a cool fall day at Fort McCoy when Range and
Training Lands Assessment (RLTA) coordinator Susan Vos packed her gear
and headed for the field. Vos is a contracted employee for the
Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security at Fort McCoy.
A view of Firing Point 402 at Fort McCoy during the 2009
warm-season grass planting (top) and during the second growing
season at Fort McCoy in 2010 (bottom).
(Photos by Susan Vos)
The fall season is a good time to assess areas that have been
re-planted. Native grasses, in particular, show off some of their best
traits during this time, making identification easier. Vos took
advantage of the opportunity to observe the many parcels that have been
re-planted by the Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance (LRAM) program.
A landscape that offers a stable training arena is critical to support
training Soldiers. The LRAM program is responsible for maintaining
realistic and sustainable lands. Military training scenarios have the
potential to disturb vegetation and soil resources.
To limit the long-term effects of training disturbance, the LRAM program
uses a variety of techniques to rehabilitate and stabilize areas
exhausted by concentrated training or areas impacted by new intense
training. To support the LRAM program, Vos has developed an assessment
program to collect information on the condition of soil and vegetation
resources after rehabilitation. The objective of the research is to
re-evaluate survey results and summarize the overall findings in the
context of soil structure and soil chemistry data that was collected in
the study sites.
To conduct the study, Vos travels to the re-planted parcel. Using maps
and a GPS unit, she delineates the parcel boundaries, and navigates
through each parcel measuring the frequency of planted target species
and ground-cover attributes. She does this by randomly placing her
quadrat in the parcel and tediously looks for planted target species.
She also studies each parcel and determines the stability of the
vegetation inside and outside of the planted parcel. It is important to
identify each planted target species as well as other important native
volunteer species that are growing within the parcel. This information
reveals where the soil and vegetation is along the continuum of
A solid vegetation cover of perennial grasses also ensures the training
area is self-sustaining as vegetation debris breaks down to return
nutrients and organic material to the soil for existing plant life.
A solid cover of perennial vegetation deters the invasion of noxious and
invasive plant species as they threaten a native plant community and are
not capable of holding the soil effectively.
Research results show that planted target warm season grasses appear to
contribute to the overall vegetation cover in some planted parcels.
Disturbances (i.e. weather or training events) have the potential to
slow down re-vegetation processes. In some heavily degraded areas,
vegetation establishment will continue to be thwarted if soil structure
and nutrients remain poor. Serious deficiencies in soil structure and
nutrients appear to be the main cause for less successful native
The LRAM program currently is working with a variety of soil additives
that can be worked into the soil that may replace some of the missing
structure and nutrients in high use areas. The RTLA program plans on
assessing the effectiveness of these additives to help determine best
(Submitted by Susan M. Vos, Directorate of Plans, Training,
Mobilization and Security Range Training Lands Assessment Coordinator.)