Three social media influencers who travel the country and magnet fish in various locations had their federal citations for illegal activity on Fort Stewart dismissed Sept. 9 in the Statesboro federal courthouse of the Southern District of Georgia, U.S. District Court.
The three men were each cited around June 24 by Fort Stewart Conservation Law Enforcement for recreating without a permit; entering a restricted area; and unauthorized magnet detecting (prohibited by local Fort Stewart regulations governing the use of recreational areas on the installation). The federal judge dismissed the tickets because the men made an effort to get permission from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to magnet detect and did call police after discovering unexploded ordnance.
Regardless of the citations’ dismissals, Fort Stewart law enforcement officials said magnet detecting remains illegal on Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield. Law enforcement also said the brazen nature the men displayed by pulling up more than 80 unexploded munitions and not stopping after one led to the citations being issued.
“It’s illegal,” said Carl Smith Jr., Fort Stewart supervisory conservation law enforcement officer. “Our hunting, fishing, and recreation policy letter prohibits it.”
Magnet detecting is not legal on Stewart-Hunter for two reasons: the danger of unexploded ordnance and cultural resource protection.
Fort Stewart’s many ranges and ongoing training make the presence of unexploded ordnance being in the environment a reality, regardless of how it got there, Chris Woods, garrison safety officer, said.
“It’s important to be aware that touching an unexploded ordnance, no matter where you find it, places you in grave danger,” Woods said. “The Army’s Three Rs was designed to prevent the tragedies that could occur if a person chooses to handle a UXO.”
Fort Stewart’s rich history has left several cultural items behind in the environment, said Brian Greer, the installation’s cultural resource officer. The Army is charged with preserving and protecting these archeological items.
“If you are training or recreating on the installation and encounter any artifacts, please leave them undisturbed,” Greer said. “Removal or damage to any archeological site can result in criminal or civil penalties. Removal of these artifacts destroys the record of our past.”
While being cautious of UXO and cultural resources is a given, Jonathan Garrow, a Fort Stewart Directorate of Public Works wildlife biologist said Fort Stewart is still one of the most recreational friendly installations he’s worked on. The nature of Fort Stewart’s mission fits neatly into ecological conservation, he said.
“One of the neatest things about our jobs as natural resource managers on a military installation is that the same acreage a soldier can go out and train to become proficient in his line of work, on a weekend, he can also go out and go deer hunting and go fishing or take his son or daughter fishing on that land,” Garrow said. “That’s a really neat task we undertake here. The same ecosystem management principles we’re abiding by that are directly benefiting the maneuver space and the wildlife and the fishery.”
Garrow also explained while the Fort Stewart Fish and Wildlife Branch does work with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, it does not have jurisdiction over recreation activities on federal property. Part of the reason is because of Fort Stewart’s training mission, which leads to unique hunting rules.
“All our hunting activities, except for alligator hunting, have a 9:30 p.m. checkout,” Garrow said. “You must be checked out and out of our training areas by 9:30 p.m. Our rules and regulations can all be found on the iSPortsman website.”
Fort Stewart officials said the munitions’ lot numbers indicated they are from the 1970s or 1980s and are training rounds for the Light Antitank Weapon. Also, although dumping ammunition and not following proper turn-in procedures is prohibited, prosecution of any individuals involved is not possible due to statute of limitations and no longer being in the military.
Fort Stewart officials also said no search for additional ordnance will be conducted. The installation is a training installation where unexploded ordnance being found is a reality. Following the Three Rs is vital, installation leadership said.
“We strongly emphasize people follow the 3 Rs—Recognize, Retreat, Report—when coming across any ordnance you may find in the training area,” said Garrison Commander Col. Manny Ramirez. “As soon as you find or see one item that just doesn’t look right, make the right call and call 911.”
Fort Stewart’s 756th Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) secured the items found in the magnet detecting incident and disposed of them.
To get more information on how to use Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield’s outdoor opportunities, visit https://ftstewart.isportsman.net/. To familiarize yourself with the outdoor policy, go to https://ftstewart.isportsman.net/files/Documents%2Fpolicy_memo_34_sop_09_sep_2021.pdf