Smokey the Bear says, "Only you can prevent forest bombings!"
Forest Service may sign another 20-year Navy contract for Ocala forest bombings
Carol Mosely
January 2001

In a landmark exit, President Clinton signed legislation to preserve more than half a million acres of National Forest from roads and logging. Meanwhile, we are being asked to accept renewal, for twenty years, of an agreement between the National Forest Service and the U.S. Navy that allows almost 6,000 acres in the Ocala National Forest to be pelted by live bombs. Now is the time to stop the Forest Service's renewal of their contract with the Navy.

Just imagine taking the family camping at Farles Lake, enjoying the tranquility of the setting and the conversations of frogs and crickets when suddenly you are jolted by the terrifying sound of low-flying fighter jets and bombs exploding nearby. Imagine living in the nearby neighborhoods and being faced with such jolts on a regular basis.

According to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) dated December 2000, "The Pinecastle [Bombing] Range accommodates a wide variety of aircraft, operations, and ordnance deliveries. Pinecastle Range is the only Navy training facility on the East Coast that allows the delivery of live ordnance up to 500 pounds with occasional use of 1,000 and 2,000-pound charges. Additionally, the Range provides a large number of training opportunities, including a strafing target, a laser board for laser targeting, and conventional targets for both live and non-explosive bombing practice."

They tell us that, "Operations normally occur any time between 7:00 AM (0700) and 11:00 PM (2300), Monday through Friday, but. . . .can be made available for operations from 5:00 AM (0500) until 1:00 AM (0100)." There are seven target areas accommodating various objectives, including the Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) target.."

This sort of activity is not without incident. On April 19, 1999, American F-18 fighter planes, on a routine bombing maneuver over the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, dropped "by mistake" two five-hundred pound bombs on a guard-post on Camp Garcia, US Navy, resulting in the death of one man and the wounding of four others. In January 2000, hunters found a live bomb in the Ocala National Forest and carted it back to their campsite, causing residents to be evacuated from their homes. And in February, windows rattled and houses shook, as far away as Ormond Beach, from a bombing run.

And what about the wildlife? The Forest Service indicates the keystone species, the Florida scrub jay, actually benefits from the more frequent fires, caused either by controlled burns conducted by the Navy, or fires started from the dropping of bombs. But, what about the species that don't fly, like bears and gopher tortoises? No evidence of harm, they say. One can't help but wonder if there would be any evidence left..

How is it you've never heard of this outrage? The Navy would have us believe it has bent over backwards to inform you of this renewal. Two "public scoping" meetings were held between April 1 and May 29, 1997 ". . . .in order to solicit comments from agencies and members of the public." They inform us that they received a mere "sixty-four letters and petitions during the scoping process." And that, of those, twenty-three letters and one petition supported continued use of the Range. Is it possible that the public is really that apathetic? My guess is they were, instead, ill-informed.

The Navy has been using our Ocala National Forest for bombing sorties for fifty years now. It is time to tell them, "NO MORE!" Close the Pinecastle Bombing Range in the Ocala National Forest!

Call Chief Dombeck of the Forest Service and urge him to stop the renewal between the Forest Service and the Navy for the Pinecastle Bombing Range 800-384-7623. Attend the demonstration on January 27th and commit to bringing three or more friends.

Attend one or both of the public meetings in Umatilla on January 29 and Ocala on January 30. And invite us to speak to your group Contact the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice for other ways to help.

Carol Mosley is State Coordinator for the Florida Coalition For Peace & Justice P.O. Box 336, Graham, Florida 32042 352-468-3295

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