A recent statement on a website used by holders of Fort A.P. Hill hunting and fishing permits announced that the 76,000-acre Army installation in Caroline County “will be closed to hunting, fishing and wood cutting activities until further notice.”

Robert McElroy of the post’s Public Affairs Office attributed the terse, closure statement to “force protection” issues.

Fort A.P. Hill provides one of the largest tracts of land traditionally open to hunting and fishing access in northern Virginia and across the Piedmont. While it is not public land, as in a state or federal forest, access for outdoors recreational activities at A.P. Hill has been provided for many decades.

The federal Sikes Act requires the Department of Defense to develop and implement Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans that also address public access for sustainable use of the natural resources. There is also a provision that such use is “subject to requirements necessary to ensure safety and military security.”

“While we will not discuss specifics, U.S. Northern Command implemented additional force protection condition measures to increase security and awareness for all installations in the U.S. NORTHCOM Area of Responsibility,” McElroy stated in an emailed response. “Commanders at all levels constantly evaluate force protection measures to safeguard our personnel. Fort A.P. Hill’s actions are in line with NORTHCOM guidance,” McElroy added.

According to the U.S. Northern Command website, the command was established Oct. 1, 2002 to provide command and control of Department of Defense homeland defense efforts and to coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

Nearby Marine Corps Base Quantico and the Army’s Fort Belvoir also fall under the Northern Command umbrella.

Captain Allison Burgos, a communication strategy & operations officer at Quantico, said, “There are no new restrictions in place on Quantico. The DBIDS (Defense Biometric Identification System) program, established here in January 2019, has no impact on hunting or fishing access. However, it does require applicants to register and get vetted prior to accessing the base.”

People purchasing outdoors-related permits at Fort A.P. Hill go through a similar vetting process.

The Fort Belvoir Public Affairs Office, issued a statement provided by Kevin Walter, the installation’s wildlife biologist. He wrote, “Fort Belvoir watercraft recreation, hunting and fishing activities are fully operational and there are no proposed changes or closures to the program. iSportsman (a registration and check-in system used by hunters and anglers) will continue to serve as the software program actively administering the program.”

A check of the Virginia Army National Guard’s Fort Pickett near Blackstone also showed no curtailment of activities.

No Refunds

McElroy said the access ban is indefinite and also applies to hunting or fishing permit holders who may also possess Department of Defense identification cards, even people living and working on the installation.

In 2019, 571 people bought Fort A.P. Hill fishing permits. Hunters bought 1,342 permits. A basic hunting permit is $65 while a fishing permit is $20. Hunters took 555 deer and 53 wild turkeys from the post in 2019.

Fort A.P. Hill’s hunting permits and combination hunting/fishing permits are valid from Sept. 1 – Aug. 31. Fishing permits are valid for one year from the date of purchase. McElroy said people shouldn’t expect refunds. “All permit sales are final per Fort A. P. Hill Regulation 200-10 (2019-2020 Hunting, Fishing, Trapping Regulations),” he wrote.

It is possible the closure could be temporary. McElroy recommends checking periodically for updates.

The number to the Public Affairs Office is 804/633-8120 or 8324. The website is home.army.mil/aphill/index.php, while the iSportsman page is home.army.mil/aphill/index.php/my-fort/all-services/environmental/conservation/isportsman.

4-H Champions Honored

Delegate Buddy Fowler, (R) – District 55, presented House Joint Resolution 8 Tuesday in the Virginia General Assembly. The resolution commended the Virginia 4-H shotgun development team for its first-place finish at the 2019 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Isle, Nebraska. Virginia hadn’t fielded a team in the nationals since 2013.

It is nice to see these youngsters and their coaches recognized for the dedication and excellence they represent. It is especially good to see during this otherwise contentious General Assembly session a joint resolution applauding young people’s safe and responsible use of firearms.

Head coach Jinx Baney and the team were in the House Gallery for the recognition. Well done!

Legislative Update

One proposed piece of legislation in the Virginia General Assembly, Senate Bill 353, which would have required outdoor shooting ranges to be at least 500 yards away from any property zoned for residential use, unless they met requirements of the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Office of Health, Safety and Security, has been deferred to next year.

That’s good news as it was uncertain what was precisely being called an outdoor shooting range.

Another Senate bill, 581, was narrowly defeated in a committee vote with two Democratic party members joining Republican colleagues to defeat it. Under that proposal, anyone who recklessly left a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger life or limb of a person age 18 and younger would be charged with a felony. Currently, that charge only applies for youngsters 14 and younger.

Still in play in a house of Delegates committee is House Bill 961, which criminalizes owning, selling or transporting firearms labeled as “assault firearms.” It also widely expands that definition. Current owners of such guns would be allowed to keep them if they registered them and followed a host of limiting rules on when and where they could use them.

This is one of those bills that Second Amendment proponents, not to mention many Virginia sheriffs, strongly oppose. There is one week left for this bill to advance out of committee and pass the House of Delegates. Many legislative watchers are hearing a sufficient number of Democrats also have problems with the bill, likely a big reason why it is stalled.

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