April 24, 2003
A select group of wildlife law enforcement officers has organized a special wild turkey hunt at Fort Campbell, KY, for children of soldiers fighting in the Iraq war. Some 20,000 soldiers from Fort Campbell are deployed in the Middle East in support of the U.S. military’s Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Organizers of the youth hunt, together with members of the National Wild Turkey Federation, are uniformed, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers, who investigate hunting and fishing violations and other wildlife crimes on Fort Campbell. Their unusual military assignment is in connection with a unique partnership the U.S. Army has entered into with the Service to conserve wildlife in the large areas of natural woodlands contained within this 105,068-acre military installation.
Some 50 children, aged 10-18, have signed up to participate in the Saturday, April 26, 2003, hunt. To qualify, young hunters must have attended a recognized hunter safety course. During the hunt each will be accompanied by an adult – a parent, or volunteer from either the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Wild Turkey Federation, or the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Secretary of the Interior, Gale A. Norton, announced March 31 that employees of the Interior Department, which includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, had adopted the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as one of two military units whose family members would receive support and assistance from Department of Interior employee volunteers as a show of America’s support for its troops. Fort Campbell is home to the 101st, which presently has 17,000 of the 20,000 soldiers from Fort Campbell in Iraq or Kuwait.
The Service’s Southeast Regional Director Sam Hamilton said that the Service is grateful for an opportunity to provide a fun day for some of the sons and daughters of Fort Campbell’s soldiers, while their fathers or mothers are overseas, bravely fighting for the freedom of the Iraqi people.
According to chief hunt organizer, John Starcher, one of three Service law enforcement officers currently assigned to Fort Campbell, the event kicks off Saturday at 3 a.m. when young hunters begin arriving at the hunt’s base site to obtain coordinates for their individually assigned, 100-acre, hunting area. By noon, the competition phase of the hunt will be over, Starcher said, and hunters will have returned to the base site with their trophies to enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers at a cookout and to receive door prizes.
By 12:30 p.m. hunt officials are expected to have completed the judging and prizes, including items of camouflage clothing, hunting videos, vests and turkey calls, which will be presented to the hunters who bring home the biggest and the best turkeys. Afterwards, the young hunters will be permitted to continue hunting until sunset at 6:39 p.m.
Fort Campbell is located in southwestern Kentucky and north central Tennessee and occupies an area of approximately 164 square miles. Clarksville, TN, is its gateway town and not far away is Hopkinsville, KY, approximately 17 miles to the north. Farm land and woodlands account for approximately 50 percent of surrounding lands. Some 24,000 soldiers and 4,000 civilian employees work on Fort Campbell.
The Army’s partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Service was born out of its need to protect wildlife and habitat on this large military installation and to oversee seasonal, deer, turkey and quail hunting, which is permitted in designated areas on the base. According to Army spokesman George Heath, this was a void not covered by Fort Campbell’s military police force, whose officers are not trained to enforce wildlife laws and investigate crimes such as poaching, incidences of pesticide contamination, habitat destruction and violations of the Endangered Species Act.
Fort Campbell’s Garrison Commander, Colonel Kim Summers, said Fort Campbell was extremely fortunate to have entered into this agreement with the Service’s Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, which provides full-time, professional, natural resources law enforcement for Fort Campbell.
Both he and Hamilton agreed the partnership resulted in significant benefits for both the Service and Fort Campbell.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers have dramatically reduced Fort Campbell’s requirement to patrol the training areas with military police officers, while providing increased security nearly 24 hours a day,” Summers said.
also benefits,” Hamilton said, “by having the flexibility
to increase its law enforcement presence at times when Fort Campbell
is able to release officers to work on the refuge.”
“Deer herds have flourished on Fort Campbell over the years,” Starcher said, noting that trophy-sized bucks are not uncommon here, contributing to the base’s reputation for offering prime hunting opportunities. “For years, much unlawful hunting took place on Fort Campbell but with today’s increased law enforcement presence, we've put a huge dent in this poacher's paradise,” he said.
According to John Taylor, manager of the Service’s Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, who helped cement the Army-Service partnership to provide wildlife law enforcement support to Fort Campbell, the number of Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers presently assigned to Fort Campbell is expected to be increased from three to five. In accordance with the partnership agreement, the Army is covering the salary costs for the officers, he said, noting that they will be replacing 14 military police previously assigned to cover the rear training areas.
no doubt our Fish and Wildlife officers are having an impact,”
Summers said, adding that hunting and fishing violations, trespassing,
and illegal dumping are declining dramatically. “The relationship
is rapidly evolving into a model for all Army and other Department of
Defense installations with significant natural resources to emulate,”
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