FAIRBANKS – Closures of military training lands near Fairbanks during moose season are needed because of special training requirements, Army and Air Force officials in Alaska said.
The military officials from Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base met with members of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Association this week to explain the reasons behind the closures in September, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Thursday.
While only a few people hunt within the training range units, the closures can also shut down training land access roads, causing a larger number of hunters to lose entry to preferred hunting camps outside the military areas, said Mike Tinker, the association's co-chair.
Hunters apply for moose permits in December and are notified in February if they will receive a permit for the fall hunt. But they don't know until July if they will have access to their preferred hunting grounds, should those spots be on or near the military lands, Tinker said. This situation has been a source of frustration for area hunters, he said.
"It's never been explainable by the military why the first three weeks of September are somehow better for operations than, for example, doing something in August or July or the end of September or October," Tinker said.
Moose season can't be easily avoided because some training can only be conducted during certain times of the year, said Col. Sean Fisher, the Fort Wainwright garrison commander.
"We don't specifically train during moose hunting season. We train all year," Fisher said. "Being here in Alaska, there's a period where you can't do limited visibility training – that night training that is absolutely critical."
Sections of the Donnelly Training Areas will be closed this year for Air Force training involving bombing practice runs. The Alaska training ranges are one of the few areas for such training, said Col. Shawn Anger, vice commander of the 354th Fighter Wing.