Camp Ripley has been an important part of the Central Minnesota landscape since the first troops arrived for training in June 1931. Today the 53,000-acre camp, owned and managed by the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs, is the main training site for the Minnesota National Guard and the primary winter training facility in the United States. With more than 350,000 military man-days per year and plenty of room for large-scale exercises, Camp Ripley is a major asset to the entire military community.
Camp Ripley’s size and location also have other perhaps surprising advantages for a natural community of plants and animals. Thanks to its long-standing, award-winning environmental research, management and education programs, Camp Ripley provides excellent habitat for many unique plants and animals, including red-shouldered hawks, hooded warblers, Blanding’s turtles and black bears.
Conservation and combat coexist very successfully here. To ensure that Camp Ripley continues to be able to provide high quality training to our country’s armed forces, the camp has developed an Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy. The Camp Ripley ACUB will create a three-mile permanent compatible use buffer area, preserving the historical agricultural and recreational land uses, and protecting a valuable ecological area of central Minnesota.
Though Camp Ripley has operated in this area for more than 70 years, it is, like other military facilities around the country, increasingly threatened by residential and commercial encroachment near its borders. In some instances, encroachment is so severe that military facilities have been forced to curtail or even cancel training exercises because of concerns about noise and public safety.