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Posted 4/2/2014

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By Ronnie Schelby
Albuquerque District Public Affairs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., -- Lt. Col. Gant, commander, Albuquerque District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), was the honored guest at Court of Awards Ceremony for Girl Scout Troop 35, in D'Arco Hall, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Rio Rancho, N.M., on March 22, 2014.

She, along with another special guest, Kurt Wagener, field engineer for the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA), were there for the very special purpose of presenting two merit badges to the scouts. The girls had helped the Corps and AMAFCA with an ecosystem project, creating burrowing owl habitats in the Calabacillas Arroyo on Saturday, Dec.14, 2013. As a result of their participation, the scouts each received two badges: a burrowing owl badge created specifically for this project, and an animal habitats badge. The requirements for earning these two badges included the following tasks: learn about the different types of wild animals that live in New Mexico; investigate an animal habitat; create an animal or habitat; learn about endangered species habitats; and help to protect animal habitats. Assisting with the burrowing owls project certainly helped the girls complete these requirements.

Lt. Col. Gant presented the scouts with the owl badges. She was followed by Wagener, who handed out the habitat badges. It was a special treat for Wagener to be present at the awards ceremony – his own granddaughter is part of Troup 35.

The burrowing owl habitat project was a result of AMAFCA needing to take measure to stabilize and protect the Calabacillas Arroyo in Rio Rancho. As part of this stabilization process, some natural habitats of the owls were going to be removed. Prior to beginning the work, AMAFCA and the Corps of Engineers Regulatory Division worked together in order to mitigate for the habitat removal.

“Working together, the Corps and AMAFCA determined that the best way to help keep the owls in the arroyo was to re-create and construct owl habitats that were as similar to the original owl habitats as possible, and that met the owls’ nesting requirements,” said Wagener. “By constructing these habitats, we hope the owls will, once again, come back to this area to nest, and have babies,” he said.

While at the site in December, Wagener showed the scouts photos of the burrowing owls – the actual ones their construction crews saw in the arroyo when they began their work. “We know this is a perfect place for them to nest – that is why we have worked with the Corps of Engineers to create habitats as close to the original nests,” he said. The scouts did a tremendous job in assisting the contractors with digging and placing the new owl habitats.

“This partnership between the Girl Scouts and the Corps of Engineers is just beginning,” said Lt. Col. Gant. “We are very excited to announce that the Albuquerque District and the Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails are very close to entering into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA),” she said. This MOA will allow for a greater number of partnering efforts between the Girl Scouts, the Corps and AMAFCA, especially for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

“We are now working with the Girl Scouts to create joint efforts that will result in the scouts being able to earn a specific Corps of Engineers badge,” she said.

Albuquerque albuquerque district AMAFCA burrowing owl habitats Corps of Engineers Girl Scouts new mexico owls USACE