Tuesday, August 12, 2014

If built, interceptor missile system likely won't shut off Ravenna Arsenal controlled deer hunts

The prospects of a high-security anti-ballistic-missile-missile system being located at Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center ought not to interfere with the 21,418-acre reserve’s controlled deer hunts.

Of concern to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife and the sportsmen and sportswomen who apply to hunt here is that such a system would close off access to Camp Ravenna, more popularly called Ravenna Arsenal.

Annually several thousand applicants submit to a random lottery drawing for an always meager number of permits. This year, for example, 4,798 men and women applied for only 176 available slots.

Yes, the opportunity to hunt deer within the high-fence arsenal attracts such large numbers of applicants.

And this year the reserve will hold just three hunts: two for adults and one in which lottery-selected women are considered the primary hunters. Those women selected are allowed to harvest any deer while their partners are limited to taking antlerless deer only.

Success varies according to the number of participants selected, which varies each year. Only after joint consultations between the Department of Defense and the Wildlife Division are held does approval come about for the number of approved hunting slots.

Over the past three years the tally of deer harvested has ranged from 219 in 2011 to 216 in 2012 and 232 in 2014, said Tom Rowan, assistant chief for the Wildlife Division.

This year’s Camp Ravenna deer herd is estimated to be around 1,100 animals. As such the reserve needs to keep its deer population in check, and the most efficient method is through the lottery drawing and adherence to both a management plan and a strict set of hunting rules.

Consequently, the hunts almost certainly will go on, even if Camp Ravenna is plucked from a field that includes three other candidates for a much-talked about silo-based anti-ballistic missile interceptor system that could cost upwards of $5 billion.

“We don’t believe such a system will impact the hunts, in part because the silos would be off-limits,” said Tim Morgan, the Environmental Supervisor for Camp Ravenna.

Agreeing is Jeff Westerfield, a biologist with the Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.

“I’d really be surprised if they shut down deer hunting entirely there,” Westerfield said.
Westerfield said as well that the only time he remembers Camp Ravenna’s controlled hunt being scrubbed was following the al-Qaeda terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

“We wanted to get it open again as soon possible because the hunts are much more than just providing recreational hunting opportunity; it’s for wildlife management there,” Westerfield says.

As for the interceptor missile system, Morgan says initial speculation calls for setting aside 600 acres of Camp Ravenna. Within this small enclave would be installed up to 20 interceptor missile silos, their existence a component of the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency.

Each of these silos would likely contain a 55-foot long, 25-ton, $50 million interceptor killer missile that would be ushered toward in-coming ballistic missiles careening from outer space and programmed to strike somewhere within the United States.

These interceptor missiles would not explode, per say. Rather, they would physically strike the arriving ballistic missiles, each projectile traveling at several times the speed of sound, obliterating one another on impact.

Estimates are that such a Star Wars-type, stationary Iron Dome-defense set-up could cost between $1 billion and $5 billion.

Two such systems are already in place; their job intended to combat a threat from such rogue régimes as those found in Iran and North Korea.

Currently one working interceptor missile system is at Fort Greely, Alaska and another is at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Thing is, this whole shooting match is one big “If.”

While Congress has approved conducting environmental impact studies of Camp Ravenna and the other three potential sites – Fort Custer, Mich., Fort Drum, NY, and the Navy-operated Portsmouth Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Training Area near Rangley, Maine – no final missile installation commitment is included, Morgan says.

And part of the reason for this stems from opposition in the first place to such a system’s effectiveness as well as its 10-figure cost.

 “All it is right now is a call for a preliminary environmental assessment of each of the four sites, and that’s going to take another 18 months to two years,” Morgan said.

Thus a decision to install a missile interceptor complex at Camp Ravenna - or at any of the other three candidate sites - is nowhere near at hand, Morgan says.

In the end then, sports hoping their lottery number will come up in the annual drawing to hunt deer at Camp Ravenna still have a chance of being picked, even if the odds are stacked against such luck.

“There’s no need to worry; we’ll certainly be hunting deer at Camp Ravenna,” Morgan says.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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