The culprits usually strike on four-day weekends.

Who are they and what are they doing?

They’re dumping trash in the training area rather than taking it to the landfill, said Sam Faircloth, Range Control maintenance supervisor and an Army veteran.

“A couple weeks ago, we found carpet, about the size of three dump trucks, where someone ripped it out of a building, pulled on the side of the rode and dumped and kept on about their business,” Faircloth said.

He’s found meals ready to eat, paint and munitions debris.

James Moody, an Army retiree and Range Control inspector, has discovered tires, TVs, clothes, toys, coolers and other types of trash in the training areas. One site in the northern training area, across N.C. Highway 24/87, contained a refrigerator with food items still intact.

Such disregard creates yet another set of problems. Animals scavenge for food, which increases activity of coyotes, foxes, deer, etc. Also, water trapped in that discarded refrigerator increases the mosquito population and the likelihood of mosquito-borne diseases.

Then, there are the items that cannot be taken to the landfill. Faircloth has found abandoned cars, for example.

Disturbing impact areas puts historic items at risk. In addition to illegally dumping trash, another prohibited activity is riding all-terrain vehicles in training areas. Any illegal activity jeopardizes the integrity of the site.

“Disturbing protected cultural resource sites is illegal and the destruction of an archaeological site on an Army installation is a federal offense,” explained Linda Carnes-McNaughton, archaeologist, Directorate of Public Works.

There are thousands of archaeological sites on Fort Bragg, but only a small percentage are protected as valuable resources for exploring the history of the Native Americans and early European settlers who inhabited the Sandhills in ancient times.

Such sites may consist of the remains of hunter-gatherer campsites as much as 14,000 years old, or farmsteads, churches and cemeteries of Scottish immigrants whose descendants still live in the area. Interpreting the nature of the archaeological record depends largely on the spatial relationship of artifact deposits.

If the integrity of the context in which artifacts are buried is disturbed or destroyed, the value of the record is diminished. Restricted archaeological areas on Fort Bragg are posted with signs prohibiting ground disturbance such as the construction of mountain bike or ATV technical structures and features that include digging, or other ground-disturbing activities.”

According to one commenter on a social media website, ATV riders have left plywood, tires and four-by-four parts strewn at Fort Bragg, as well as created ATV trails where none existed.

Military police have jurisdiction over violations within Fort Bragg’s training areas, Moody said.

North Carolina Statute 14-399 makes littering a crime. It specifies that no person can intentionally or recklessly dispose of litter upon any public or private property not owned by the person.

A spokesperson at the Provost Marshal Office said MPs face problems with proving who the litterers are, but punishment typically includes monetary fines and/or community service.

Diminishing training area creates problems for those who work to keep Fort Bragg environmentally viable.

“It’s illegal first and foremost and then, it puts more work on my guys to have to go and clean up whatever they’ve dumped. Two, it’s not very good looking,” Faircloth said.

There’s extra consideration for not putting prohibited items in Fort Bragg’s training areas.

“Depending on whatever exactly it is, it could be harmful for the environment. There are several endangered species out here in the impact areas. Depending on what’s being dumped, it could have an adverse effect on the environment,” Faircloth added.

Indeed, the red-cockaded woodpecker and the St. Francis’ satyr (butterfly) are protected species on the installation.

There is a great deal of oversight in keeping the training areas up to par. One such measure entails Range Control team inspectors reviewing and inspecting ranges when a unit has finished training. Once the area has been cleared, it becomes available to another unit, Faircloth said.

The oversight ensures that training areas have not been compromised and also guarantees that all of Fort Bragg shepherds its ongoing mission — maintaining Army readiness.

(Editor’s note: Information for this article was obtained from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment at www.umich.edu/~esupdate/library/96.07-08/boice.html.)