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Range managers, resource managers partner to allow hunting amid military training

31 Jan 2014 | Mike DiCicco

Each year, Marine Corps Base Quantico sells around 2,000 licenses to hunt aboard the installation. However, the base’s primary mission is military training that requires a near-constant expenditure of live rounds, from bullets to 500-pound air munitions. Coordinating these two types of activities — and making sure they never cross paths — requires a close partnership between the personnel who control hunting and those who schedule and monitor use of the ranges.

“There can be no mistakes made,” said Tim Stamps, head of the Natural Resources Section, which issues daily hunting reservations.

These days, the Range Management Branch schedules all training activities in its computerized Range Facility Management Support System, which passes that information to the Integrated Range Status System, producing a map depicting all activities on the west side of the base at any given time, accurate down to less than a meter, said Chris Thompson, range safety specialist. This is then overlaid on a geographic information systems map showing all the base’s danger zones.

Each evening, three different Range Management personnel look over all that information and then send a list of the areas that will be available for hunting the next day over to Natural Resources, which enters the information into its automated reservation system, and reservations can be generated.

Stamps remembers a more low-tech system in place when he arrived at the base in 1983.

“Those maps were produced mainly by a [noncommissioned officer] sitting at a drafting table on the second deck of Lejeune Hall,” he said, adding that he would then hang the drawing, which was on acetate, over a map on his wall and then call Range Management throughout the day to make sure no changes had been made.

“Fortunately, we eventually transitioned to a more formal system,” he said.

There are more than 40 training areas on the base, and each is different. For the most part, live-fire impact areas are toward the center of the west side of the base.

For example, Thompson said, “Area 9A is never open for hunting because it’s full of unexploded ordnance.”

Area 7B, which borders on Murphy Demolition Range, has unexploded ordnance in one area, but that site is marked and blocked off, so hunting can be allowed there when no one is using the ranges there or carrying out other training. The area north of Weapons Training Battalion, 11B, is almost always closed due to live-fire training.

Meanwhile, Area 6C, the “thumb” that extends into Prince William National Forest near Interstate 95, is often available for hunting, although it is sometimes closed for patrol training, occasional pyrotechnic use and, once in a while, convoy training or helicopter operations, Thompson said.

“There are all kinds of training activities that would be dangerous to the general public,” he said.

The two organizations also work together to patrol the west side of the base, with Natural Resources’ game wardens and Range Management’s patrolmen cooperating to make sure outdoorsmen don’t go where they’re not supposed to, or to find Marines or hunters who go missing.

“We work hand-in-hand with each other because we each see things the other should know about,” Thompson said.

Occasionally, Range Management has to take back a training area, in which case the patrolmen and game wardens cooperate to make sure all the hunters checked into the area are out before training begins.

Thompson said range managers try not to let that happen more often than absolutely necessary because it’s an inconvenience to hunters.

The Sikes Act of 1960 provides for cooperation between the Department of Defense and other agencies for the management of fish and wildlife resources on military installations.

“Part of that is for DOD land to be open for outdoor recreation if it’s feasible, and it’s through the coordination of our offices that we make it feasible and do our best to provide access,” Stamps said. “Of course, training is the priority. It always comes first.”

But Thompson said allowing hunting is also about maintaining a friendly relationship with the surrounding community, offering recreation opportunities to service members and controlling animal populations.

However, he said his favorite hunting events to coordinate are wounded warrior hunts, which he said allow injured service members to enjoy an activity they may have thought they would never be able to do again.

These hunts, of which there are several each hunting season, are scheduled in the Range Management system as if they were training events, and the range managers and Natural Resources workers cooperate to find locations where, for example, a hunter in a wheelchair can access a stand and hunt with the help of a volunteer.

“All of us owe a great deal to these guys who have sacrificed so much to ensure that we can continue to live with the freedoms we have,” he said. “Those guys deserve that type of effort and that type of attention.”

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