Sustainability Hero, Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia
Cyrus Brame has created the James River Excess to Asset program, coordinating volunteers who have collected thousands of pounds of metal, tires, and other debris from Refuge lands. Collected materials are then sold to local scrap yards for funding that is injected back into the refuge for promotion of the recycling program. To date, over 23,226 pounds of metal scrap has been taken for repurposing. Additionally, dozens of pieces of government equipment and vehicles have been excessed per policy requirements. Items that were released would demand a prohibitively high expense to maintain or exponentially decline in value unused. These items are sold via GSA auction Positive results of the actions have been environmental and economic - cleaner refuge lands, cleaner facilities, and monies returned to the Refuge and the Department. Several acres of property have been returned to natural habitat. Over $1,300 has been gained through recycling and more than $30,000 in GSA sales.
Cyrus Brame coordinated the Excess to Asset program and it has transformed the maintenance shop areas and select refuge lands from eye-sores to clean, professional looking properties. Brame is currently an Outdoor Recreation Planner, but serves the roll of site manager for the two above-mentioned refuges (as well as a third- Plum Tree Island NWR). He is the only on-site staff person for those refuges and this program is in addition to his regular duties. Brame has taken upon himself to remove thousands of pounds of debris and excess dozens of out-dated pieces of equipment in order to streamline refuge operations, demonstrate responsible action, and generate financial resources for federal purposes.
Mr. Brame was hired on as a member of the Eastern VA Rivers NWR Complex in Oct. 2003. Upon his arrival, he inherited numerous pieces of obsolete equipment spread throughout the grounds. In addition, several locations on the refuge were dump sites, remnants of previous owners. As a former volunteer coordinator at John Heinz NWR (in Philadelphia) and organizer of major debris clean-ups there, he soon began motivating others to help with the trash collection and recycling effort. He has sponsored spring and fall beautification events, including activities on Earth Day and National Public Lands Day. He mobilizes hundreds of volunteers annually. All the while describing the benefits and necessity to separate materials and recycle.
The amount of antiquated equipment was another challenge Brame addresses soon after arriving to the Complex. Unfortunately, much of the equipment was located at Presquile NWR, which is an island located in the James River. A temperamental cable ferry provides limited access for transporting equipment and materials to and from the island. Therefore, the movement of items scheduled for excess was a time consuming process. Some of the items pre-date the establishment of the refuge (1953). Regardless of the logistical hurdles, Brame would advertise items for excess through the proper agency/GSA channels, then load the equipment on trailers, cross the 700-ft section of river via cable ferry, drive to James River NWR (20 miles to the east) to store prior to prospective bidders inspection and ultimately release. Approximately, thirty-two items have been excessed, including a 1951 Clark forklift, 1961 Cub tractor, and 1968 Dodge. The items ranged in size from a small air compressor to tilt bed trailer. All items were beyond the needs of their intended purpose and ready to be removed from the station's asset inventory. Some vehicles and equipment were transferred for newer, more fuel efficient vehicles/equipment. Other items were released with only the financial benefit of the proceeds returning to the government and increased space. Regardless, the items were not serving, nor would serve into the future, a useful purpose on refuge lands.
Through the Excess to Asset program Brame has kept to the Department Manual, part 515, Chapter 3 policy of promoting sound environmental practice by preventing pollution and recovering resources through recycling. He has complied with Executive Orders 12873, 13423, and 13514, where applicable. His efforts have far out-paced the goals of EO 13514 for diverting at least 50% of non-hazardous solid waste from landfills through recycling. Brame goes so far as to provide beverages to volunteers from only a water cooler or from aluminum cans (100% recyclable). He has purchased some containers for recycling with the funds obtained from previous recycling efforts (utilizing Public Law 104-52, Section 608).
Visitors, volunteers and visiting staff seem to recognize the changes taking place at the refuge. Brame has said "recycling, repurposing, and properly excessing inefficient assets is a simple way to create a cleaner, greener station. These transformations take time, but can easily become an intern project or a Friends initiative.
From 2008-2010, 23,226 pounds of metal was recycled. Here is one example: on Earth Day, April 22, 2009, the James River NWR partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Goodman and Associates, a large regional accounting firm, to collect and recycle debris found on an 125-acre inholding, that was soon to be transferred to the Refuge. Brame coordinated with Waste Management, Inc. to recycle all collected materials. At the end of the day 29,360 lbs of debris was collected by 125 volunteers. Over 3 tons of tires were recycled as part of that event. Four large 70 cubic yard dumpsters were filled to capacity. Sapling bald cypress and green ash were planted in areas that once sat mounds of tires and trash.
Cyrus Brame s efforts are not unique to the Service; however, he has demonstrated a dedication and sense of purpose that has carried the recycling project through the years. He serves as an example of one person making a huge difference by developing a recycling plan, identifying materials that can be recycled, developing a system of disposal (such as advertising and seeking assistance when removal is difficult), and persevering year after year. His example should be used at other governmental agencies.