Completion of Refuge, End of All Fieldwork Signal Vision Fulfilled
COMMERCE CITY, CO – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined officials from the U.S. Army and Shell Oil Co. to celebrate the transformation of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal into a premier urban national wildlife refuge.
The event officially marked the end of all major environmental cleanup work at the site and the formal transfer of 2,500 acres of land from the Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bringing the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to its final size of more than 15,000 acres.
“With the successful completion of the vision to create a premier urban national wildlife refuge, a new chapter now begins,” Secretary Salazar said. “I commend the hard work by so many partners that led to this great achievement.. This vital natural resource will provide a permanent safe haven for wildlife and offer many opportunities for people from all walks of life, especially our youth, to connect with nature in a great urban park.”
For more than a decade, the Army, Shell and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have worked cooperatively with EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and Tri-County Health Department to complete a comprehensive environmental cleanup of the Arsenal. All fieldwork will conclude this fall, coming in under budget and a year ahead of schedule. The total cost of the environmental cleanup is $2.1 billion.
"The Army is proud to have completed its mission at the Arsenal by transitioning land that was once used to protect and preserve our freedom into one of the largest urban national wildlife refuges in the country," said Hew Wolfe, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for environment, safety and occupational health. “As we approach the conclusion of the environmental cleanup program, which has surpassed the highest environmental and safety standards, we would like to thank our partners, the community, and the citizens of Colorado. Together, we have created a conservation asset for countless generations to enjoy.”
"I congratulate the U.S. Army and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their accomplishments here at the Arsenal and thank the community for its support in helping us realize this goal," said Ray Collins, global divestments manager for Shell Chemical Co. "Shell is proud to be a part of this productive partnership, which former Defense Secretary William Cohen called a 'national model' of cooperation among the public and private sectors."
The Arsenal, approximately 10 miles northeast of downtown Denver, is one of the largest environmental cleanup sites in the country. In 1942, RMA was built to manufacture chemical weapons to be used in World War II as a war deterrent.
Following the war, the Army leased some of the facilities to private industry, including Shell Oil Co., for the production of agricultural chemicals.
The Arsenal later became a site for munition demilitarization programs. All manufacturing stopped in the mid 1980s, and the site's sole mission became environmental remediation and restoration. In 1987, the Arsenal was listed on EPA's Superfund National Priorities List.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge was formally established in April 2004 and doubled in size in 2007 with another land transfer from the Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The final significant land transfer makes the site one of America's premier urban wildlife refuges and a high-profile, dynamic resource located in the heart of the rapidly-growing metropolitan Denver region. The site provides sanctuary for more than 330 species of wildlife, including bison, deer, coyotes, bald eagles, and burrowing owls.