White Deer Are Just One Of The Abundant Wildlife At The Seneca Army Depot.
The convergence of man and nature often produce strange bedfellows. Few places present as striking a contrast as the Seneca Army Depot near Romulus, NY. The now retired depot was an important munitions center for several decades starting in 1941, until it's formal decommission in 2000.
The now silent bunkers, which were once home to atomic warheads and their triggering devices, now stand sentry over the inexorable progression of Mother Nature, slowly reclaiming what once belonged to her.
The depot is also home to the world's largest herd of white deer, a rare pigmentless version of the White Tailed Deer now so common throughout the state. The deer are essentially a captive herd, kept in by a 24 mile fence surrounding the depot's 10 thousand acres. The usually recessive gene for the all white coat became dominant within the restricted environment, and the beautiful pale herd found a haven within the miltary's protective fences.
Dennis Money, President of Seneca White Deer, Inc. recalls the story, "The white deer were kind of given special priveleges by the base colonel, and he forbad anyone from shooting a white deer, they're sacrosanct, and if anybody even made a hint they were going to shoot a white deer, the joke was they'd be on the next plane to Greenland."
The "paternal" instinct fostered by the flourishing white deer eventually extended to the rest of the base, with the Army taking on a role quite different from what they were used to, cultivating a destiny they could not have foreseen.
Money continues, "The Army became a real conservation type of organization. They planted hundreds of thousands of trees, they fostered habitat management for the deer, so they could flourish once they knew what to do, and now that the depot is silent, it reminds me of the analogy that they've taken the swords, and they've beaten them into ploughshares."
These days, a new future is rising where the weapons of war once slept. Seneca White Deer, Inc., is a not-for-profit organization that wants to use the base as an attraction for eco-tourism. Previous tours of the base they sponsored were highly successful, attracting over 5 thousand visitors. For a region starving for revenue a green business promoting this unique habitat seems like a natural.
"We feel so strongly about what this could become for an economic stimulus for the Finger Lakes Region of NY State", says Money "We just have to open the eyes of certain individuals and agencies to make them aware that this something no other place in the world has."
Finger Lakes Technology Group is a local company that is currently refurbishing and re-using the old bunkers for their communications business. The company's CEO believes there's room for all on the site, and they're taking an active role in developing their part of the depot.
"Nothing's taken out of here", says Paul Griswold "Everything's maintained, we bring Naturalists in to look at the birds and the different wildlife we have here all the time, so, we're working in conjunction with all the nature people now to make sure that everyone survives and it stays the ways it was before."
So for now, this rich habitat remains cloistered from the outside world,open to only a priveleged few, an testament to man's violent past, yet holding the promise of a peaceful green future.
Griswold reflects, "It's just beautiful to be able to stand here, like today, and you hear the trees, the birds, and see wildlife here. As I've told people before, if you want to come to a place and stand and not hear anything but nature, this is the place to be."
Adds Money, "This is something that belongs to all the people of the world, to all Americans and people from other countries that want to come and see something unique, unique because you won't see it anywhere else in the world, that's the Seneca Army Depot."
So the Seneca Army Depot remains closed to the public, but Seneca White Deer are trying hard to change that. If you're interested in helping out, or just want more information on this amazing site, you can reach them at www.senecawhitedeer.org.