Christina Ramsey (or Chris as most of us at that time came to know her) personally made installation natural resources managers feel that the Department of Defense cared about them and their issues. Along the way, she made natural resources management important within the Department of Defense.
Prior to her arrival in early 1982, as DoD Deputy Director of Environmental Policy, management of installation natural resources was split among three primary disciplines, agronomy, forestry, and fish and wildlife. These individual programs were administered by their counterparts at various Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps commands. There was little DoD involvement that was apparent to installation managers.
Chris quickly recognized that the three disciplines, sometimes including range management, had little integration and in fact, were often at odds with each other over management priorities and strategies, as publically recognized by a federal court case regarding the management of an endangered species on an installation. She, a biochemist by profession, set out to meet installation managers and personally learn from them.
Shortly after her arrival, she chaired the first meeting of the DoD Natural Resources Council at the Pentagon in June 1982. This group included membership from all four services plus the Army Corps of Engineers. It also included the Armed Forces Pest Management Board, which provided the first reasonably comprehensive directory of Defense Natural Resources personnel… a directory that proved invaluable to those working in the field, often relatively isolated from each other.
This Council, for which Chris was responsible, was her primary official means to bring DoD services and other interested Defense agencies together to take (or at least attempt to take) coordinated actions for improving natural resources management via top level policies and actions.
It’s hard to adequately describe the impact on installation managers with regard to having opportunities to personally discuss installation-specific issues with the boss, the big boss. Chris simply made herself available to us. She was an early supporter of the National Military Fish and Wildlife Association, both up-front and behind the scenes. She attended our meetings; she attended similar meetings where our foresters, range managers, and agronomists met.
More importantly, she did more than attend and give the State of the Defense speech. She participated, both at official events and unofficial gatherings in such notable places as restaurants, bars, hallways, and lounges. Anybody could talk to Chris and feel they were being heard. She came to understand our concerns and needs. She understood our issues with agencies and even our commands (especially the commands as she had similar frustrations). Whenever she could, she visited our installations… tough with her hectic schedule. It is important to note that Peter Boice, who was mentored by and took Chris’ place at Defense, continues that tradition of doing his best to be available to installation personnel.
And most importantly, she tried to help. Was she always successful? No, but we knew she was trying. That counts….. counts a lot.
About 1990 Chris personally put together the first Defense Natural Resources Conference in Washington. Yes, it was a dingy place… that noisy downtown hotel. It was not well attended, but, it was a start. And it was a start that wasn’t appreciated by all at command levels. We installation folks felt it was a major step. Chris promoted the DoD Natural Resources Council to sponsor the first large-scale DoD Natural Resources Conference in 1991, a meeting held in conjunction with the annual training workshop of the National Military Fish and Wildlife Association.
Marvel at the Decade of Chris…
Legacy was created with a $10 million start ($50 million within 3 years). Natural resources professional staffs grew to an all-time high, and almost all were full-time government professionals, in spite of OMB Circular A-76. Management plans moved from separate forestry, land management, and fish and wildlife plans to legally-required Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans as part of a major Sikes Act reauthorization. Defense became a true partner with other agencies and non-governmental organizations. Natural resources personnel became full partners with its other environmental professionals at installation and command levels, and environmental directorates became common on installations. Endangered species was no longer an “option,” at the whim of installations. Comprehensive plant and animal surveys were the order of the day at installations. The Sikes Act was completely rewritten to provide compliance backbone to taking care of installation lands and providing hunting and fishing opportunities for these public lands. There was money, lots of money for installation personnel and projects.
We should also not forget that major advances also occurred with Defense cultural resources programs during her tenure.
We tried to locate Chris as part of this award preparation. She has dropped out of sight, a loss to those of us who spent time with her. More importantly, our decade-long warrior at Defense was our co-worker for making Defense lands better able to sustain our military missions and care for the lands’ natural resources.
When Christina Ramsey, then Director, Environmental Planning Division, left Defense in 1991, she left behind an era of unprecedented advances in Defense installation natural resources management. Many of us fondly look at those Chris years as the Golden Age, a time when anything was possible. She not only led from the front, she also had our installation backs.
As Chris said in a speech about 1986, “Although there are times and places that see conflicts arise between the Defense mission and traditional natural resources management methodologies, the 24 million acres of natural resources entrusted to the Defense Department are in good hands.”
Chris, we thank you for making the impossible happen. Indeed, you left those lands and resources in good hands.