Bob Brozka, associate director for the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, retired recently following a 22-year career at Colorado State University.
Brozka came to CEMML with experience in environmental project management from the Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Lab in Illinois. There, he honed skills supporting military installations in natural resources management as a part of the Integrated Training Area Management Program.
An avid outdoor enthusiast interested in hiking, backpacking, skiing and cycling, Brozka’s move to Fort Collins in 1994 was an obvious choice. Ultimately, it was living in Colorado that drew Brozka to work at CEMML.
Since that time, Brozka helped CEMML grow from a modest-sized group of consultants to a research powerhouse at CSU, averaging over $50 million dollars in contracts from 2013-2015. CEMML is on track for another record-breaking year, according to Brozka.
“In the first quarter of the fiscal year, we secured $45 million in awards. It’s mind-boggling,” he said. “Last year, we landed $53 million in research funding, which was a record. We’re on pace to easily reach as much as $80 million this year.”
CEMML conducts projects with all branches of the military and other federal agencies such as the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, not only consulting and offering project management, but providing more than 350 employees who work at installations across the United States. In Brozka’s estimation, providing the military with expertise in areas ranging from natural resource management to cultural resource services and environmental compliance services is critical.
“The Department of Defense has 30 million acres of land to manage in a wide variety of ecosystems,” he explained. “Typically they don’t have the employees to carry out land management and other activities we provide.”
Brozka’s education and training as a forester, along with skills in project management, made him an effective associate director for the unit throughout his tenure. And while he completed numerous projects of all sizes, a few definitely stood out.
“Fort Polk [in Louisiana] was fun,” he reflected. “We did work there with a large staff, about 24 people, to protect habitat and regenerate longleaf pine forests for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.”
Other projects came to mind, but were memorable for different reasons. At the Pohakuloa training area on the big island of Hawaii, the program had at various times as many as 60 staff working on protecting endangered species and conserving some of the best examples of dry tropical forest in the world.
Brozka also managed a massive effort to build a 65-mile fence around 35,000 acres of forest to keep out feral goats, sheep, and pigs, which were decimating rare endemic plants species at the training area. While the length of the fence is impressive, what is even more notable is the rugged terrain made up of recent lava flows that the crew had to work across. The fencing and subsequent removal of the animals is already starting to show some success in the recovery of 15 species of threatened and endangered plants.
Projects around the world
Brozka will be remembered at CEMML and the installations where he worked for his effectiveness, his business-like manner, and ability to keep a wide variety of projects around the world moving forward.
Tracy Wager, a graphic designer who worked with Brozka for over 20 years summed it up well. “Bob expects high quality and good work, but he lets you be a human,” she said. “He doesn’t follow you around micromanaging and keeps things about business at work.”
“He’s serious about work but has a fun lively side to him as well,” Wager added.
Brozka will get to tap a bit more of his lively side as he enters retirement with big plans, including taking up woodworking and fishing again. He’s got designs on completing the Colorado Trail next year, and said that he plans to get in lots of cycling, backpacking, skiing, reading and travel.