Fort McCoy News February 13, 2015

Airport tree-removal project improves aviation safety

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Recent tree removal along the flight path of a Fort McCoy Airport runway has improved aviation safety.

The project involved the efforts of the Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources Branch (NRB) and the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS) Airfield and Training Divisions.

DPTMS Airfield Division Chief James Hubbard said the project was necessary because trees had grown up into the approach path at the ends of some runways blocking visibility of some airfield lights.

photo 1 tree removal
Forestry Technician Charles Mentzel uses a chain saw to cut trees as part of
a tree-removal project in an area near the installation airport on South Post.

Most affected were the precision approach path indicator lights that provide visual guidance to help pilots acquire and maintain the correct approach to an airport.

Fort McCoy Forester James Kerkman and Forestry Technician Charles Mentzel used chain saws to individually cut down more than 200 trees. As the trees were cut, DPTMS Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance (LRAM) Coordinator Brooks Lundeen operated an excavator with a clamp capability to stack the cut trees.

"Previous timber sales in the area had helped clear trees, but this project mostly was down in a wetland area where timber harvesters weren't allowed to go, Kerkman said.

DPTMS Geographic Information Systems personnel mapped the area.

"We worked together to determine which trees were in the way and where we needed to complete the work," Mentzel said. "We only cut those trees necessary to meet the requirements for the airfield."

Kerkman and Mentzel don't regularly pick up chain saws to complete work like this as foresters, which is normally covered by a tree and shrub management services contract. However, because of contractual timing and safety, they completed the work.

photo 2 for tree removal
Land Rehabilitation and Maintenance Coordinator Brooks Lundeen of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security uses an excavator to move cut trees.

Kerkman said they have the training necessary to safely complete chain saw operations. "We both have the required training and certification from the Forest Industry Safety and Training Alliance for safely handling and using chain saws," he said.

One concern was the proximity of the project to Silver Creek, which flows through the area. Getting trees that fell in or near the creek and out of the water quickly was essential to minimize disturbance of stream habitat.

With the excavator's clamping capability, Lundeen was able to secure trees that reached out over the creek, and if they fall into the water, he could quickly reach out and remove them. "Having the heavy machinery available to get this done was essential to our success," Lundeen said.

"Teaming together like this made the project proceed a lot quicker, as well," Kerkman said.

Approximately 50 logs from the project will be used to support training for Army combat engineers at one of the Fort McCoy ranges. Also, beginning in February, the Forestry Office will establish a firewood collection zone where firewood permit holders can clear more trees and wood from an adjoining upland area.

For more information about forestry at Fort McCoy, call Kerkman at 608-388-2102.