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Payton Thomas of
Clarksville, TN
admires her first catch
during a recent fishing
derby at Fort Campbell


Wildlife Cops at Fort Campbell Help Introduce Military Youngsters to Wildlife Conservation


August 14, 2003

Tom MacKenzie, USFWS: (404) 679-7291

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers assigned to U.S. Army base, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, are helping soldiers' sons and daughters experience the great outdoors and gain an up-close appreciation of the beauty of nature and the value of fish and wildlife conservation.

As a rule, the children of career soldiers, who often refer to themselves as "army brats," rarely have many opportunities to experience hunting, fishing, and other outdoor, wildlife-related activities. Since the average tour of duty for a career soldier rarely exceeds 3-4 years, military families are continually on the move and it's likely that many children presently at Fort Campbell could find themselves, a year from now, overseas in Germany or Korea, or at one of the many Army bases scattered across the United States.

Few military installations are as close to vast areas of natural, wildlife, habitat as is Fort Campbell, which has earned itself the moniker, hunter's paradise, said John Starcher, the Service's lead law enforcement officer at Fort Campbell. The base's 105,068 acres consists of large blocks of natural woodlands. Fort Campbell is home to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the 101st Corps Support Group and the 5th Special Forces (Airborne). Some 20,000 of Fort Campbell's soldiers are now, or have recently been, deployed in Iraq in support of the U.S. military's operations, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Examples of the kinds of activities Starcher and his fellow officers, Greg Smith and Adam Rawlinson, have been offering Fort Campbell's youth include a wild turkey hunt organized last April, in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation, and a fishing derby they arranged more recently for the base's younger children.

He said they are planning, together with Fort Campbell and several non-profit organizations, a complete slate of youth activities in upcoming months to include waterfowl, upland bird, and deer hunts, hunter safety classes and various fishing events. All these activities will take place either on Fort Campbell or on one of three adjacent national wildlife refuges B Tennessee, and Cross Creeks, near Paris and Dover, Tennessee, respectively, or Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in Benton, Kentucky.

During Fall months the Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officers at Fort Campbell will instruct the youth on the importance of wildlife habitat and show them how to provide shelter for birds and improve their habitat by building waterfowl nesting boxes. After the boxes are constructed, Starcher said, the youngsters will place them in locations on Fort Campbell and nearby refuges, where they can be used next Spring by migrating waterfowl.

To coordinate these and other activities, Starcher said he has met with refuge representatives, non-profit groups, and educators from the Fort Campbell's kindergarten through 12th grade school system. The base has 5 elementary, 2 middle, and 1 high school, serving a total student population of approximately 3,364 children.

"This is a very unique opportunity for both Fort Campbell and the refuge system to provide valuable wildlife and natural resource educational opportunities for these students, while their parents our defending our nation," Starcher said.

Starcher's, Smith's and Rawlinson's unusual military assignments are the result of 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 Fort Campbell.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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