By Michelle Blake | Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division wildlife biologist
TRINIDAD, Colo. — For the seventh year, Fort Carson staff supported the annual Trinidad, Colorado, Water Festival May 16, 2019, an event where students from kindergarten through 12th grade learn from local professionals about water conservation and the importance of water.
Event organizers said they believe investing in youth, education and the environment is a strong strategy for protecting and improving the natural environment. This year, more than 1,250 students from 14 different Las Animas County schools came to the Trinidad State Junior College campus to visit 40-50 presentations celebrating the theme “Aqua la Vida.”
Fort Carson staff provided four presentations. Jack Haflett, Directorate of Public Works (DPW) Environmental Division environmental protection specialist, used a colorful “Terminology Potpourri” poster to introduce the students to key concepts in pollution, mitigation and compliance and then encouraged them to practice soaking up mini oil spills with absorbent pads and beads.
A glass cylinder filled with cooking oil, a sports drink, isopropanol alcohol and syrup were used to demonstrate how different materials do not mix, and also how the properties of different substances determine which cleanup technique is implemented.
Students participated in the “Survey Says!” game with Craig Dengel, DPW Environmental Division Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS) archaeologist, with the goal of identifying the seven key things that people require to survive (air, water, food, shelter, sleep, technology and family). The game was used to illustrate the historical settlement patterns of humans, which often coincide with proximity to reliable sources of water, such as oceans, rivers and lakes, and how water provides food and transportation opportunities.
DPW Environmental Division PCMS wildlife biologists highlighted some of the unique physical and behavioral adaptations that animals have developed in order to survive in a climate where water is a limiting resource. Students were able to examine a live bull snake to understand how the snake’s scales reduce water loss, reflect light and provide camouflage.
The biologists discussed the different ways that PCMS simultaneously supports the military mission and the environment through their Water for Wildlife Program, which uses solar powered wells and guzzlers. The presence of these reliable sources of water reduces the stress on individual animals, and helps offset the pressures from various training activities.
Finally, the students gathered around Directorate of Emergency Services PCMS Firefighter Kevin Filkins, Station 35, to learn how the Fire Department responds to wildland fires and implements prescribed burns to support a healthy, natural ecosystem. Filkins described the equipment that firefighters use on wildland fires, including water, personal protective gear and various hand tools.