BY COLONEL MIKE ABELL
Safari Club International and BHA have not always seen eye to eye on every conservation issue. Still, we have worked to find common ground, and Kentucky BHA and Kentuckiana SCI have found shared purpose in what we have in common versus what we disagree upon.
The partnership started with an appeal for help. In the spring of 2020, KYBHA reached out to all the conservation organizations in the state. We planned to undertake a tremendous task, and we needed help. Our largest Wildlife Management Area had become a dumping ground for local refuse. Our local members were frustrated to the point of anger, so we started organizing a massive clean-up.
The Peabody WMA is 41,323 acres of public land stretched across three counties, and home to amazing deer, turkey and quail habitat. Some would argue it is the best public turkey and quail habitat in the state. It is reclaimed from surface mining and is crisscrossed with gravel roads. The size of the WMA and the extensive road network make it impossible for local authorities to eliminate the dumping. Those same roads that provide access also provide nefarious characters places to dump their trash without being caught.
Our Kentucky BHA chapter wanted to clean it up or at least start the process. The problem was the scope. We did not just need manpower, we needed funding. We had another hurdle. In the spring of 2020, Kentucky BHA was new to the Commonwealth. Our chapter was less than one year old, and our coffers were empty.
You have to ask someone to dance if you are going to dance, right? So, we put out the call for help across the conservation community. Within 24 hours of making our appeal, I got a call from Chief Warrant Officer 2 (Retired) Larry Richards. Larry was the President of Kentuckiana Safari Club at the time. The call was simple.
“Hey Colonel, what do y’all need?”
“Chief, we think we’re gonna get about a dozen local BHA volunteers if they bring family. We will probably get another dozen from across the state, but honestly our biggest problem is hauling off the trash. In a perfect world I could get a 30-yard roll-off construction dumpster staged at the WMA headquarters. The problem is, we ain’t got the cash.”
“Yep, and I’ll be there myself to help.”
“Hell, I’ll pick you up, it’s a three-hour round trip.”
The morning of July 11, we had 42 volunteers and 5 WMA staffers on site. The county judge executive and the district commissioner from the Fish and Wildlife Commission even showed up to pick up trash. The local volunteers who scouted out the worst dumps took teams out at about 8a.m. Loads started coming back within an hour, and the massive construction dumpster was full by 11 a.m. It was a tremendous success.
Since we are BHA, we like to make anything and everything fun, so we hosted a social afterwards. Some great networking occurred, and there was much discussion about making it an annual or semi-annual event. On the drive home I commented, “Man we filled that dumpster fast, we could have used two more.”
Larry replied, “We (KYSCI) will pay for another.”
In these terribly divisive times, it can be tough to find common ground. That is, until you realize the common ground we are looking for is the public land right under our feet.
Colonel Mike Abell is the vice chair of the Kentucky chapter of BHA