Air Force: Tate’s Hell war games a go

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

The Air Force must identify appropriate training areas based on the presence of sensitive species or habitats. Wildfire is also a consideration in planning training since blank ammunition and dummy explosive devices would be used. The BA states that wildfire generally has a positive impact on wildlife habitat since wildfires are normal in the area due to lightning strikes.

According to the BA, participating military personnel would receive conservation training specific to Tate’s Hell and surveys using GPS technology would occur every three years to identify locations of protected species.

Aircraft will maintain a 1000-foot buffer zone around eagle nests and a 500-foot buffer zone around red cockaded woodpecker nests. If gopher tortoises would be disturbed by military activity, a relocation permit must be obtained and the tortoise relocated. Gopher burrows are to be avoided during maneuvers.

Buffer zones will also be established around bald eagle nests and wood stork habitat. Indigo snakes are also to be avoided and if one is spotted by military personnel, it is to be reported immediately to Eglin personnel.

Sensitive plant species would also be surveyed and considered prior to disturbance. Any issues relating to sensitive species or habitats would be reported to the forest service and there would be constant monitoring of environmental impacts by the Air Force.

Use of the forests would be arranged through lease agreements with the FFS.

The plan to hold war games in Tate’s Hell was first discussed here at a August 2013 public scoping meeting, when about 200 county residents turned out to object to military use of the forest. County Commission Chair Cheryl Sanders has spoken out, both here and at a state senate committee hearing, against military exercises in Tate’s Hell.

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