Air Force: Tate’s Hell war games a go

The Environmental Impact Study released by GRASI last week.

The Environmental Impact Study released by GRASI last week.

Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 09:10 AM.

An environmental assessment released last month says the Air Force’s proposed military exercises are compatible with the existing uses of Tate’s Hell State Forest .

According to the executive summary of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), completed by Eglin Air Force Base, military exercises proposed for Tate’s Hell under terms of the Gulf Regional Airspace Strategic Initiative (GRASI) will not have a negative impact on plants, animals or the environment in general.

The EIS was completed for both Blackwater River State Park and Tate’s Hell, after consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in accordance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. USFWS confirmed the proposed exercises weren’t likely to adversely affect sensitive species.

The EIS appears largely based on an Informal Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultation, known as a biological assessment (BA), developed by Eglin and released by USFW in Jan. 2013.

 The BA describes “potential impacts from the use of (Tate’s Hell) for the emitters and training activities on the federally listed red-cockaded woodpecker, wood stork, reticulated flatwoods salamander and critical habitat, frosted flatwoods salamander and critical habitat, eastern indigo snake, Gulf sturgeon and critical habitat, piping plover and critical habitat, purple bankclimber and critical habitat, Choctaw bean and critical habitat, narrow pigtoe and critical habitat, southern sandshell and critical habitat, fuzzy pigtoe and critical habitat, Godfrey’s butterwort, Florida skullcap, white birds-in-a-nest, and telephus spurge. This BA also considers the gopher tortoise, bald eagle, several federally petitioned species, and multiple state-listed species.”

In the EIS, Tate’s Hell is divided into tactical areas approved for various levels of use. Sensitivity of areas where training occurs are rated from “prohibited,” where no access is allowed, to “Limited Use II” where blank ammunition can be deployed, cat holes may be dug and other ground disturbance is acceptable.

According to the EIS, refueling would be restricted to designated sites with asphalt or concrete surfaces. The transfer of fuel from aircraft to aircraft during refueling operations, or from refueling truck to aircraft, can only occur on hardened surfaces and would likely take place at nearby airports.

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