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    Hunters vital to U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground wildlife conservation efforts

    Hunters vital to U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground wildlife conservation efforts

    Photo By Mark Schauer | U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground's environmental stewardship efforts have earned plaudits...... read more read more



    Story by Mark Schauer 

    U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground

    YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.-- As a natural laboratory for testing virtually every piece of equipment in the ground combat arsenal, US. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) has a vested interest in responsible stewardship of the land.

    Though located in one of the nation’s most extreme desert climates, the proving ground is still home to a vast diversity of wildlife, including Sonoran pronghorn, desert tortoises, and bighorn sheep.

    YPG’s environmental stewardship efforts have earned plaudits from within the Army and from agencies like the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. YPG officials are quick to note that the success of the installation’s wildlife management program is in large part thanks to the steadfast support of area hunters and sportsmen.

    “We get so much support from groups like the Yuma Rod and Gun Club and Arizona Bighorn Sheep Society for construction of wildlife water catchments and monitoring animal populations,” said Daniel Steward, YPG wildlife biologist. “A lot of these things rely on volunteer labor to accomplish, and it is our sportsmen who reliably help get these projects done.”

    Generations of Yuma-area sportsmen have hunted YPG’s ranges— with over 1,200 square miles of land area, there is enough room to allow safe access to hunters.

    “We have an obligation to have public use of some of our installation where it is not hindering our mission,” said Steward. ”The mission is always first, but where it is not a conflict we can bring in hunters.”

    Still, YPG’s developmental test mission of virtually every piece of equipment a Soldier is likely to shoot, drive, or wear means that safety and security considerations make access here less liberal than on other public lands.

    “We have restricted access because at YPG we are shooting things we have never shot before,” said Steward. “We have safety buffer zones we have to observe for our tests. Periodically, if we have a test with a large safety buffer zone, we may have to close down specific hunting units.”

    YPG’s hunting areas are divided into these small ‘units’ to ensure that any such closure is surgically targeted, not a wide swath of land well beyond the needs of hunter safety and mission security.

    “It’s kind of a balance between safety and security when we establish these hunting areas,” said Steward. “They are in places that avoid our busy impact areas and where people can be relatively safe without being a security issue for our testing.”

    Steward says that the goodwill of YPG’s hunting population is invaluable in preserving and perpetuating the installation’s s wildlife.

    “Hunters have been helpful to our program: They help be our eyes and ears on the range. Under the North American model of wildlife management, fees that our sportsmen pay in large part fund all wildlife conservation efforts nationwide.”

    The biggest communication and administrative tool used for hunters is an online system called ISportsman, and the web address to YPG’s is A similar system is used to gain access to the Barry M. Goldwater Range, though YPG’s procedure is more rigorous due to the post’s primary purpose as a developmental test facility for military equipment as opposed to a bombing range.

    “YPG’s system is a little different than the Goldwater Range,” said Steward. “To access YPG requires a background check.”

    As such, hunters must submit their full names and address as it appears on their driver's license. Steward stresses that all members of a hunting party coming within YPG’s boundaries must undergo this step, even if they don’t personally plan to participate in the hunt. Folks must also watch a range safety video and acknowledge a hold-harmless agreement as part of the process. Upon completion of the background check, all members of the party will receive a free hunting permit.

    Hunters must also register any and all weapons they bring onto YPG, from long guns and pistols to bows, whether they own the item or are borrowing it from someone else.

    “If you’re quail hunting and might use two or three different shotguns, or deer hunting with a rifle and a sidearm, you have to register them all,” said Steward. “You can get an unlimited number of these free permits.”

    Most importantly of all, the final step once a hunter has acquired access and weapons permits is to call YPG’s range control at the first moment of entry into YPG’s boundaries.

    “It’s always important to call in for a range clearance any time you come to hunt on YPG,” said Steward. “It is equally important to close your clearance when you depart the range. For safety reasons, it is absolutely vital that our range controllers be aware of your location and plans while here.”

    For more information on hunting at YPG, Daniel Steward can be reached at (928) 328-2125.



    Date Taken: 07.29.2021
    Date Posted: 07.29.2021 10:56
    Story ID: 401719

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