Air Force’s Tate’s Hell plan questioned

Tate's Hell

A view of Tate’s Hell State Forest Special to the Times

Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 02:33 PM.

Editor’s note: The following story originally appeared in the July 13 edition of the Pensacola News Journal.

New questions about the military’s proposal to use the Blackwater River and Tate’s Hell state forests for maneuvers are coming from three Florida agencies and a Pensacola lawyer who specializes in environmental law.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has asked for specifics from Air Force planners on a range of issues from “collection and removal of waste and unexploded expendables and pyrotechnic devices” to aircraft noise that is projected to be above the level “made by nightclub.”

Moreover, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has contradicted a section in the Air Force’s draft of its Environmental Impact Statement that is supposed to establish guidelines under which the forest can be used.

In a letter to the Air Force dated June 12, the agency said the impact report “states that there are no eagle nests” in either Blackwater or in Tate’s Hell State Forest, which also is a proposed site for maneuvers.

“In actuality, there are documented eagle nests in both forests that are monitored by the FWC; the area biologists can provide these locations,” the letter said.

Mike Ackerman, an Air Force environmental specialist, told the News Journal that the final version of the impact statement will address the questions raised by Florida officials.

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