Support our mission
 
Lakenheath High School freshman Joseph Hartman, left, and Dave Nutt, natural resources manager for RAF Mildenhall, place sod on top of a construction rubble being made into a habitat for great crested newts. Hartman spearheaded the project; it is part of what he must do to earn an Eagle Scout badge.
Lakenheath High School freshman Joseph Hartman, left, and Dave Nutt, natural resources manager for RAF Mildenhall, place sod on top of a construction rubble being made into a habitat for great crested newts. Hartman spearheaded the project; it is part of what he must do to earn an Eagle Scout badge. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Lakenheath High School freshman Joseph Hartman, left, and Dave Nutt, natural resources manager for RAF Mildenhall, place sod on top of a construction rubble being made into a habitat for great crested newts. Hartman spearheaded the project; it is part of what he must do to earn an Eagle Scout badge.
Lakenheath High School freshman Joseph Hartman, left, and Dave Nutt, natural resources manager for RAF Mildenhall, place sod on top of a construction rubble being made into a habitat for great crested newts. Hartman spearheaded the project; it is part of what he must do to earn an Eagle Scout badge. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Lakenheath High School sophomore Dan Jones swings a sledgehammer toward a slab of concrete during an environmental project for great crested newts on April 10.
Lakenheath High School sophomore Dan Jones swings a sledgehammer toward a slab of concrete during an environmental project for great crested newts on April 10. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Pieces of concrete fly into the air as Lakenheath High School sophomore Dan Jones wields a sledgehammer during an environmental project for great crested newts.
Pieces of concrete fly into the air as Lakenheath High School sophomore Dan Jones wields a sledgehammer during an environmental project for great crested newts. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
A close-up of a great crested newt.
A close-up of a great crested newt. (Photo courtesy of the Froglife Conservation Agency)

RAF MILDENHALL — Lakenheath High School freshman Joseph Hartman leaned over a brick wall and pointed out a camouflaged amphibian lurking in a pool of rainwater at an old training site near Beck Row.

After spending much of his life in the Boy Scouts, 15-year-old Hartman is now trying to earn the top rank of Eagle Scout. To achieve it, he must first spearhead a community service project.

He chose the great crested newts — who are close to becoming an endangered species — as his beneficiaries.

On April 10, Hartman and fellow Boy Scouts from Troop 219 transformed a pile of construction rubble into a 3-foot-tall, sod-covered habitat next to the pool. The mound will serve as a lucrative hibernation site for the great crested newt, the largest newt species in the United Kingdom.

“I thought it would be neat to protect a species,” he said. “It’s kind of like a five-star hotel for the newts.”

Hartman admitted he got the five-star remark from Dave Nutt, natural resources manager for RAF Mildenhall, who also helped with the project.

“The newts are the most protected [amphibian] species in the U.K.,” Nutt said, adding that special permission is needed to enter their environment.

Strict protection laws were passed after the newt’s numbers fell sharply due to modern farming practices and the destruction of ponds across the United Kingdom, Nutt said.

“The newts have nowhere to live,” he said. “If it carries on, they’ll be gone in 40 to 50 years.”

It is hoped that the construction of this man-made habitat will deter their extinction at this site.

“It’s a stewardship of the environment,” Nutt said.

Although total population numbers for the great crested newt are lacking, Nutt said a survey conducted last August by English Nature found about 60 at this area.

The conservation agency will perform another count this August to compare the numbers.

Nick Sibbett, the Suffolk area conservation manager for English Nature, said he has been pleased with the preservation work being done by the Air Force and is optimistic about the newt’s future.

“It’s likely the numbers will go up, not down,” Sibbett said.

He also praised RAF Lakenheath’s protection of endangered plants and grasslands surrounding its runway. “They do a very good job for their survival,” he said.

Know your newts …

Great crested newts often occupy ponds (their breeding habitat) from spring to autumn. They prefer ponds with a range of water plants and without fish or a lot of waterfowl.

The smooth newt is more common than the great crested newt in Suffolk, occurring in around 40 percent of countryside ponds. Great crested newts occur in around 25 percent of ponds in those parts of Suffolk.

Great crested newts are larger (around 6 inches) than smooth newts (around 4 inches). Males of both species have a crest in the spring and summer.

In Britain, it is an offense to kill, injure, disturb or capture a great crested newt or to damage, destroy or obstruct places (including ponds) where they rest or breed.

Source: www.english-nature.org.uk

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up