Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

A Free Pocket Guide of Fort Riley's Hazardous Plants and Animals

The Fort Riley Military Installation is a 101,000 acre military training facility located between Junction City and Manhattan in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas. It is one of the largest HazardousSpecies.JPGpublicly owned tallgrass prairie tracts in the United States. Not only does the installation offer state of the art training for our country's soldiers, it also provides some of the best outdoor recreational opportunities in the state. Any time spent outdoors, either for training or recreation, should be spent cautiously as many animals and plants could be potentially hazardous.

 A free pocket guide of Fort Riley Hazardous Plants and Animals is now available through the Fort Riley Directorate of Public Works (DPW)-Environmental Division. The purpose of the pocket guide is to help individuals identify and understand those hazardous plants and animals found on Fort Riley and the surrounding area. Copies of the pocket guide may be acquired at the DPW Conservation Office located at 407 Pershing Court on Main Post. Questions or concerns about hazardous animals or plants on Fort Riley should be directed to the DPW Conservation Office by calling 785-239-6211.

Fort Riley, Native American Tribes partner to protect cultural resources and preserve cultural heritage

By Theresa A. de la Garza, Cultural Resources Manager, Directorate of Public Works  

Fort Riley, Kan. – Prior to the establishment of Fort Riley in 1855, several Native American tribes called the Great Plains their home. Their legacy remains on Fort Riley in the form of tangible and non-tangible cultural expressions.

Tangible cultural expressions include archeological sites and collections of artifacts, such as arrowheads, lance points, scrapers, butchered animal bone fragments, ceramics, knives, drills, beads and grinding stones. Tangible cultural expressions also include human remains and associated funerary objects. Discovery of these items on Fort Riley occurs through archeological fieldwork and, to a lesser degree, through ground-disturbing activities and erosion. 

Unlike the tangible, archeologists cannot identify intangible cultural expressions from what they see. Therefore, they must rely on the expertise that consulting tribal representatives share – traditional knowledge.  Such resources may include burials; sacred sites, traditional cultural properties and other resources identified for ceremonial, religious or cultural purposes. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation issued a traditional knowledge information paper May 3, 2021 to provide guidance for federal agencies, stressing the value in identifying cultural resources and determining potential impacts to them. This traditional knowledge influences protocols and taboo topics during tribal consultation.
The Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division houses the Cultural Resources Program, to include the cultural resources manager who is also the historic architect and the post archeologist. Together, they ensure the U.S. Army Garrison programs remain compliant with federal preservation laws, regulations and executive orders.  Additionally, they act as liaisons with Tribal Historic Preservation Officers or the designated representatives and assist the garrison commander in meeting requirements for government-to-government relations with tribes, as required for the domestic sovereign nations.  The Post Archeologist reviews proposed ground disturbance activities and monitors known cultural resources to avoid impacts and promote their preservation. 

When identifying tangible cultural expressions, Cultural Resources Program staff follow a federally mandated process outlined in the National Historic Preservation Act and implement best management practices in consulting with tribal stakeholders. Federal installations must meet special coordination, provisions and protections to comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. With tribal assistance, the leaders and staff at Fort Riley can identify and protect resources of cultural and religious significance, to include those that may not have distinct physical characteristics.  

Tribal consultation began at Fort Riley in the mid 1990’s, during the infancy of the Cultural Resources Program. Such programs sprang up DOD wide, after the 1992 amendment to the NHPA.  Likewise, both the DOD and the Army created the positions of Federal Preservation Officers, as required of all federal agencies. However, many tribes did not have the resources to reciprocate with their own THPOs with whom cultural resources staff could consult. Recognizing that this tribal limitation influenced past and skewed present-day consultation, the CR Program staff initiated an effort in 2016 to canvass for tribes that may have had a connection to the Fort Riley area. These included tribes for which the area may have been ancestral lands; were within the path of migration to reservations established through treaties with the U.S. Government; and served as a temporary place of occupation, if held temporally on the installation during mid-1800 conflicts with Native Americans.

Cultural Resources Program staff identified twenty-three tribes and supported the garrison commander in communication with their tribal leaders. Twelve tribes expressed interest in the cultural resources of Fort Riley. These include:

  • Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
  • Kaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas
  • Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Osage Nation
  • Otoe-Missouria Tribe
  • Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
  • Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Ponca Tribe of Nebraska
  • Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation
  • Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska
  • Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. 

Long-standing comprehensive agreements exist with the Kaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. Websites for both nations claim ancestral ties to the Kansas Flint Hills. These agreements outline roles and responsibilities as they relate to compliance with NAGPRA. 

The Osage Nation THPO, Dr. Andrea Hunter, said the area to be within former tribal hunting and warring region. 
Some of the 12 tribes migrated through, such as the Ponca who left their ancestral lands under duress to enter reservations in present day Oklahoma. Some tribal members later returned to Nebraska. James H. Howard documented those two passages in his 1965 ethnography titled, “The Ponca Tribe.”   

According to Fiona Price, the Post Archeologist, no clear tangible evidence of civilian Native American tribal presence on Fort Riley after its establishment has yet to be found. An example might include modified Euromerican materials to suit their own cultural needs – metal arrowheads. The lack of physical evidence does not mean that interactions with tribal members on Fort Riley did not occur.

In 1997, James E. Sherow, then Associate Professor at Kansas State University, published, “A Richly Textured Community:  Fort Riley, Kansas and American Indian Peoples, 1863-1911.”  

Sherow provides examples of such interactions and writes that the Curtis Expedition of 1864 relied on the assistance of “The Pawnee Scouts.”  These scouts were active-duty military and assembled from several Fort Riley units. Additionally, the 5th U.S. Cavalry included a Pawnee battalion frequently posted at Fort Riley.

Cultural Resources Program staff conduct consultation as a means of complying with federal laws and regulations, protecting the cultural resources under its stewardship and to respect the cultural and traditional affiliations of the partner tribes. Key examples include the signing ceremonies for comprehensive agreements, reinternment ceremonies for Native American human remains, ceremonial burial of a sacred, light-colored bison calf born to the Fort Riley herd and in-person meetings hosted by two tribal THPOs. 

Tribal members in the form of military and civilian personnel, veterans and military family members work and live on Fort Riley. With this in mind, the Cultural Resources Program staff can act as an informal liaison. One such example is assisting an active-duty Native American Soldier who needed a secluded location for a traditional ceremony. The Cultural Resources Program remains open to supporting such requests and facilitate outreach and awareness training. The Cultural Resources Manager can be reached at 785-239-6646 or theresa.a.delagarza.civ@mail.mil.

Net Zero and Fort Riley

As you might have heard, Ft. Riley has been chosen as only 1 of 6 installations in the U.S. to participate in a project to try and become a Net Zero Water Installation. That's all well and good, right? What is "Net Zero" and why is it of any importance?

 Simply put, the term "Net Zero Water Installation" means that the installation conserves and only uses water to the point that it is possible to return water removed from the watershed back into that same watershed so that the water in that region is not depleted over the course of a year. Another way to look at it is that the installation puts the same amount of water back into the watershed as what originally came into the watershed. This is accomplished by conserving the water it uses, reusing some of the water it obtains, finding ways to capture water that normally just runs off during rain events and various other means. However, this is an incredibly oversimplified statement for an incredibly difficult project. It will take years to accomplish, and can only be accomplished through the support of everyone on the installation. Period.

 So why do it?

 Well, for one thing, there was an Executive Order created that requires all federal agencies to reduce their water consumption by 2% annually. While this certainly plays a part in why Ft. Riley is participating in a "Net Zero Water" project, it is not the sole reason for becoming a "Net Zero Water" installation.

 Environmentally speaking, it is the right thing to do. There is no disputing that conserving water is a responsible thing to do. Fresh water, for all practical purposes in Kansas, cannot be created. What we have is all that we have and if it disappears, we are in serious trouble. Kansas' economy is dependent on our own water supplies. Farmers irrigate their crops with it. rancher's livestock depend on it, municipalities rely on it for so many reasons that I can't begin to list them all. Ft. Riley, in essence, is like a small city and a large consumer of water. By becoming net zero water, Ft. Riley will serve as an example to other municipalities what can be done to be good stewards of the land.

 So how will it be accomplished?

 Ft. Riley is in the very beginnings of trying to become net zero water. That is not to say that steps have not already been taken. For instance, large scale building projects have incorporated the use of bioretension ponds to capture storm water runoff. Simply put, bioretension ponds are areas in, or around, developed projects left as grassy areas that will capture the water that runs off parking lots, building roofs, etc. Once the water is captured, it slowly sinks back into the ground and becomes groundwater rather than just whooshing off into the gutters and taken directly to a river or treatment plant. Contaminants in the water are also removed through natural filtration. The water reaching the groundwater tables are in essence clean.

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 Another project that conserves a tremendous amount of water is the way tactical vehicles are washed. The fort uses a system that catches the rinse water from the washing area and allows it to filter through a series of ponds. In the process, contaminants are removed and by the time the water reaches the final pond, the water is relatively clean. That water is then pumped up to the washing area and is reused to wash vehicles. While this system is not completely self-sufficient, it saves hundreds of thousands of gallons of water each year.

 Lo-flow, highly efficient water saving fixtures are also being utilized. These fixtures include such things as showerheads, toilets and water faucets that use far less water than older style fixtures.

 While there are several other accomplishments that have already been implemented to conserve water and promote being better stewards of the land, the real water-saving effort will be the personal decisions of the individuals that live and work on post. The largest use of water on Ft. Riley is human consumption during daily activities. This includes activities such as doing laundry, watering the yard, brushing your teeth, taking showers, washing your hands and the like. Becoming net zero will take the cooperaiton of everybody on post. Only through a combined effort of deliberate actions taken by the people who live and work on post, along with the construction projects and repairs of the infrastructure will a net zero water installation be obtained.

 The Garrison Commander strongly supports the idea of Fort Riley becoming a Net Zero Water Installation. In order to help change this challenge into a reality, Fort Riley has created a Net Zero Water Team. Among other things, the team will be responsible for creating public awareness for conserving water, suggesting ideas on how to incorporate water saving practices into future building plans and providing ideas on ways to conserve or reuse water in existing infrastructures. As stated earlier, becoming a Net Zero Water Installation is a substantial challenge that will take a tremendous amount of planning and cooperation to obtain. Without a doubt, it is a challenge that needs to be taken on because it is the environmentally correct thing to do.