In 1990, David Beckmann began working at Fort McCoy as a biological technician trainee through the installation’s Cooperative Education Program while still a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
At the time, he really didn’t think he would end up staying in the job for 32 years. After receiving his Bachelor of Science from Stevens Point in wildlife management in 1994, he continued in the biological trainee position for many more years while pursuing a graduate degree.
“When I started here, I was still in college at Stevens Point,” Beckmann said. “And the plan initially was to work for a few years, get my degree and move on to other positions. But Fort McCoy kept me here because it’s a unique piece of land.”
In 2002, Beckmann continued his support of Fort McCoy’s wildlife management program as a contractor for five years. By 2007, Beckmann was hired as a wildlife biologist at Fort McCoy. He today he works with the Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division, Natural Resources Branch (NRB).
“My overall responsibilities with wildlife management (at Fort McCoy) is about managing the habitats of a wide range of wildlife species, not necessarily just endangered species,” Beckmann said. “This includes deer, songbirds, forest birds, small mammals and more. We look a lot at the habitat and food sources of the different species in the facility so they can survive on their own.”
Beckmann’s work also includes managing deer, small game and turkey hunting programs at the facility. These are all things, she said, that have grown since the time she started.
“When I started here, a lot of things were pretty new,” Beckmann said. “We still didn’t have the endangered species programs at that time. And we didn’t have an urban (cantonment area) deer hunt. So basically my first year here, we organized the cantonment’s urban deer hunt. At that time there was a large population of deer in the cantonment area. We started doing deer surveys where we got up to 300 deer in the cantonment at a parade field.
“And with that we knew there was a need to reduce the population,” Beckmann said. “The deer were not very healthy. There were also many accidents on Highway 21 and some of the other major highways. So… that hunt has been going on for over 30 years and it has been very successful in maintaining the urban population and keeping those deer healthy as well.”
Beckmann was also a critical leader in starting the first youth deer hunt at Fort McCoy and the first deer hunt for people with disabilities. Both are shows that he also said he is proud to be a part of.
In addition to deer management, Beckmann said he was proud to be a part of the effort to initiate endangered species management at Fort McCoy. It’s a job, he said, that began with his mentor, former Fort McCoy biologist Kim Mello, as well as current NRB chief Tim Wilder, who also worked for many years as an endangered species biologist. extinction.
“It wasn’t long after I started here that the Karner Blue butterfly was proposed for listing as endangered,” Beckmann said. “(Kim) was quite proactive in getting ahead of the game. So we started doing some surveys for the Karner Blue butterfly. At that time, we worked with the Nature Conservancy… and, surprisingly, we discovered that we have one of the best populations in the country here. And a lot of that is related to military training and how it affects the habitat.”
Since the 1990s, Fort McCoy has been the go-to place for hundreds of researchers for the Karner Blue butterfly, Beckmann said. And that work led to Fort McCoy’s success in recognizing and supporting work for other endangered species at the facility and in Wisconsin as well.
“I think a lot of that goes back to Kim as well,” Beckmann said. “She had a lot of foresight on the endangered species and invasive species program that he also started at Fort McCoy. Having that kind of mentor helped solidify the importance of the natural resource work I was doing and keep me on the cutting edge, especially with Karner Blue. We also did a lot of work with some researchers at the time.”
At Fort McCoy, the battle against invasive plant species takes place every year at the post, and Beckmann has had a big part of that, too. He said decades ago that the fight against invasive species was not as strong as it is now, and that the facility now has better control of invasive species than ever before.
“I think we started a program in 1991,” Beckmann said. “And at the time, the main species we were concerned about was spotted weed and leafy spurge. Both were pretty extensive at McCoy. But we really didn’t know to what extent. So, we started mapping those as well and found that it was pretty much everywhere, especially on the South Post. At that time, Kim understood that there was a need to control invasive plants because of the damage they cause. … So, we started doing some herbicide treatments.
“At the time when we started, Fort McCoy is probably the only place in Wisconsin that was working with invasive species,” Beckmann said. “I think the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was slowly getting involved with a couple of people, but a lot of people thought it was a lost cause and not even worth doing. Of course, we went on and on and found more species, but we were finding a lot of success in controlling some of these species and improving natural habitat and military lands. And then from there it spread back to the state of Wisconsin. We were kind of a big influence in the state. We collaborate a lot, we help provide information and then within the Department of Defense. We started to get more involved with the Military Fish and Wildlife Association (National), and developed a working group on invasive species.”
And throughout his career, Beckmann has been part of a team within the NRB that has won awards from the Army Installations Management Command, the Secretary of the Army, and at the Department of Defense level for outstanding natural resource management. And Beckmann said winning awards is great, but having a great team where everyone gets along and learns from each other is probably the best reward.
“Well, you know I’m proud of the work that I’ve done and that we have as a team,” Beckmann said. “I think the team we have is a very united group. Some of them are retired now, but we are almost like a family, we work well together and we are all about the same age. We were all uniquely dedicated to the resources and the military mission, so we were able to work together to accomplish many things. It wasn’t like forestry just did its thing and didn’t care about any of the wildlife. We all got together, discussed the different jobs we were doing to make sure it was a win-win for all sides: military, wildlife, fishing, logging, and more.
“I think that working together as a group reduces the infighting or big heads that could occur, and you get to work a lot more when people are on the same page,” Beckmann said.
In addition to Kim Mello, Beckmann worked for many years at the NRB with former NRB Chief Mark McCarty and former Fort McCoy Forester James Kerkman.
Also currently working with Wilder, forester Charles Mentzel, fisheries biologist John Noble, endangered species biologist Jessup Weichelt, natural resources specialist/wildlife biologist Kevin Luepke, foresters Nick Randall and Tim Parry, and Julie Steinhoff in the Permit Sales Office.
Beckmann officially retires on September 30. He said he will miss seeing the people he has seen come to Fort McCoy for gun deer hunting seasons over the past three decades, and he will miss working with his teammates. But he also looks forward to what’s next.
View more of Beckmann’s video and audio interview by visiting the Fort McCoy page on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at https://www.dvidshub.net/fmpao.
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