Travis AFB environmental office protects natural resources and recycles waste

  • Published
  • By Randall Couch
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The 60th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental office ensures all units on Travis AFB comply with the myriad of environmental protection laws imposed by federal, state and local governments.  

This multifaceted task is accomplished by managing and monitoring a wide range of programs to guarantee these laws and regulations are followed to the letter.  

In their natural resources protection role, the office is tasked with mitigating dangers to the many species of plants and animals listed as either a species of concern, threatened, or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the California Department of Fish and Game.  

“On a larger scale, there are 27 million acres of land owned by the Department of Defense in the United States,” said Leslie Peña, 60th CES environmental office chief and wildlife biologist. “There are about 500 federally listed threatened or endangered species. Of those 500 species, 60 of them exist only on DoD land and no longer exist outside of DoD land.” 

On Travis, a few of these listed species are the Burrowing Owl, California Tiger Salamander, and Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp. Land hosting any of these species is considered biologically sensitive by the listing agency. 

"The development or disturbance of land on Travis must be mitigated if deemed biologically sensitive." said Peña. “Failure to successfully preserve threatened and endangered species on the installation can threaten the continued operations of the base itself.” 

Endangered or threatened species conservation is a small part of the shop’s overall mission on Travis, and failure to comply with many of these regulations can result in fines, legal action and even base closure, Peña said.  

Another important program the shop manages is the solid waste program. Ronald Tolentino, 60th CES environmental protection assistant in charge of solid waste, ensures scrap metal is properly prepared for recycling while food waste is not contaminated by other materials and properly recycled. 

“People always ask me why I’m so picky about how scrap metal and food waste is prepared and sorted before I let them dump it in the vessels,” Tolentino said. “If we send out vessels that contain unsorted metals or items that are not properly broken down, or food waste containers that are contaminated with other materials, the entire container can be deemed contaminated. Instead of Travis AFB getting money back for the recycled material, we can end up being charged for the extra handling of the materials.” 

In addition to the natural resources program and the solid waste program, the nine civilian personnel manning the office also monitor the air and water quality on base.  This includes proper storage and disposal of hazardous waste, monitoring petroleum, oils and lubricants tanks, tracking and monitoring use of chemicals and cultural resources, and managing the local Environmental Systems Management tracking system. 

According to Peña, attention to detail permeates the culture of the environmental shop, helping to keep the mission going and keeping the base in compliance with the many federal, state and local environmental laws.