EGLIN AFB — Work at Eglin Air Force Base to relocate more than 1,000 gopher tortoises from the installation's massive acreage has earned the base a 2019 Secretary of Defense Environmental Award.

According to a Department of Defense news release, Eglin was among nine award winners selected from 32 nominees for the environmental honor. Eglin's award also recognized the base for its prescribed burns, a strategy for reducing wildfires.

Eglin AFB won the award for Natural Resources Conservation at a Large Installation. According to the DoD news release, Eglin AFB "relocated 1,030 gopher tortoises to avoid (the reptiles') listing under the Endangered Species Act and potential mission encumbrances." The 160 prescribed burns across the base, covering more than 145,000 acres, were noted by the DoD for "removing 290,000 tons of hazardous fuel biomass, and reducing wildfires caused by mission activities on test areas by 20 percent."

The Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards have been awarded since 1962, honoring "the outstanding efforts of service members and civilians across the Department of Defense to conserve the nation's natural and cultural resources, protect human health, prevent or eliminate pollution at the source, clean up contaminated DoD sites, and incorporate environmental requirements into weapon system acquisition," according to the news release.

A panel of 58 judges from federal and state agencies, academia and the private sector evaluated nominations from the DoD components to help determine winners.

In addition to Eglin AFB, other award winners were the Wisconsin Army National Guard; Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California; National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland; Naval Base Ventura County, California; Washington Army National Guard; Mississippi Army National Guard; and the Tagnite Technical Working Group at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.