Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cyberscouters - Beware! (of believing Google Earth)

Google Earth tells me that the state has purchased this property and crowned it Globecom WMA. I'm ecstatic. Or, I was.
I travel the area between Annapolis (MD), Baltimore, and Washington DC with far too much regularity - mainly for work. As some of you may know, I occasionally attempt to parlay my work travel into an opportunity for a slightly longer day away from home, and some outdoor activities. In this particular area of Maryland, that means fishing, kayaking, bow hunting, and rarely, a duck or goose hunt.
I also live in a state (Maryland) that has relatively high taxes and uses those taxes to buy land and protect it from development. Those properties become state parks (good access, lots of people), state natural areas (poor access, few people), and wildlife management areas (regulated access, some people). They buy property every year and it's really hard to keep up with all of their purchases - especially since it commonly takes 3-5 years to get a management plan in place for the property - that management plan dictates who (of the public) can use the property, how, and when, among many other things.
Last summer, as I began a period of regularly driving the DC-Annapolis-Baltimore triangle for a wetland restoration project, I decided to check out Google Earth to see what opportunities might be available in the upper Patuxent River, which bisects the triangle. Lo and behold- I saw a property called "Globecom WMA" and noted that it has several ponds and great access to the Patuxent River. The property wasn't featured in the state hunting guide, or the DNR's website, so it must have just been purchased! And since the ponds are not right on the access road, they might be great fishing spots. So, I set on down the road one afternoon.......

This pretty country road outside of Washington DC seemed like it must obviously lead to a big chunk of land, especially with the "Dead End" sign up by the highway. Hit the gas!

Oh wow, that's weird, maybe I just misread that sign. (I actually thought - oh, that must be a leftover sign from when the last owner - apparently USAF - turned the property over to the state of Maryland last year.......Lazy DNR maintenance guys!)......let's keep driving!

Okay, at this point I had to stop, turn around, and leave quickly. There was another set of blockades up the road, across the entire road. I was very surprised and had no idea what this place was. So I limped on back to Google and found out that it is the Davidsonville Defense Transmitter Site , which provides "high frequency transmitter support" to various defense systems, including, you know, the CIA, State Department, 17 Latin American Countries, and the Executive Branch of the United States Government. No biggie. Here's a picture of a guy working on one of the towers. And another. The USAF alumni of the installation, called the "Davidsonville Dragons," even have their own Facebook page!
That's right - the implication here is that USAF intelligence folks must predict that the general public (non-hunters) might see this place on Google Earth or Google Maps, and thought to themselves, "A great way to keep out 93% of the public automatically is to call it a Wildlife Management Area." How sad that is, and how right they are. So, if you're just tuning in, there is no "Globecom WMA." It's made up.
Among Cold War buffs, this site seems to be lost in the shadow of the nearby nuclear missile site W-25 (Ajax-Nike batteries), literally just down the road. However, isn't it comforting that I was able to find some neat information on the place from a site called "WMD Around the World?" According to their page about the area, "Globecom" was one of the first high frequency systems designed for the site and its sister sites - Andrews AFB and Brandywine (MD) Transmitter Site. Hence, "Globecom WMA." I bet some State Department cyberspook thought that s/he was hilarious when they thought it up!
But a bigger issue (cyberscouting) exists - had I been planning a deer hunt or other activity without scouting, or I had accessed the property via the River, I would have found myself in a really bad situation, as in, arrested for trespassing on a sensitive Federal property, which I imagine is a felony (as are many other violations that are considered minor when not on Federal property). Please don't make that mistake when you're planning your hunts this fall.
But you don't have time to scout? Think of it this way. Your average NFL superstar spends his season (if not the entire year) working out and practicing 6 to 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, just to get "up to" 30 or 40 minutes of play on the field during the real game. Why is hunting different? How have we become these folks who expect to magically drop our boats in the water or ATV's at the woodline, traipse into some area we've never seen, and magically come out with some harvested game, great memories and pictures, and our lives and gear intact?
Please make an effort to get out there, learn the paths, the creek channels, the tides, and don't depend on the computer to tell you what to do and where to go. Eventually, you'll get some really bad advice. I sure did!

See you at Globecom WMA! Not!


Unknown said...

Don't know why they wouldn't let you at least wet a hook or two.

biobabbler said...

Thanks for the heads up. Forwarded that to family in that part of the world who LOVE wildlife refuges for checking out birds and plants and bugs, etc. Also forwarded to an avid hunter friend on the east coast. Wonder if he's had any similar experiences.

Kirk Mantay said...

Trey, I grew up in a heavily militarized area (southeastern VA) and let me tell ya, they are serious!

On a weird note, at work someone was passing around the 2010 DNR inventory of state lands and guess what was on there? "World Com WMA / AA County / 270 acres."

The plot thickens! I called DNR for an explanation but no response yet!

Unknown said...

Love this post, I cracked up! On a more serious note, though, the military actually manages a TON of land that serves as wildlife habitat -- a byproduct of wanting a nice big buffer around what they're doing. But maybe they should have gone with wildlife REFUGE, not WMA!

Anonymous said...

I grew up next door and used to be able to ride horses through the entire complex. When I moved back home a few years ago, and went down the same trails, I was greeted by SERIOUS blockades on all the old trails. Several times a year we also hear some incredible helicopter action at night... I do wonder what the hell is going on back there these days!??

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