Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Environmental Assessment On The Proposed Maryland National Guard Very Low-Level Training Flights Over PA Wilds To Be Ready In January

On September 23, DCNR told the
Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council the environmental assessment for the proposed Maryland National Guard very low-level flight training area in six counties in the Pennsylvania Wilds should be available in January for a short 45-day public comment period.

The counties include Cameron, Clinton, Elk, McKean, Potter and Tioga.

The training would involve very low-level flights from 100 feet off the ground up to 7,999 feet twice a day for four hours for 170 days a year involving up to six aircraft.  

"Weekend and night time operations at low-altitude would be limited," according to the proposal.  The proposal does not involve weapons firing or ordinance deployment.

The type of aircraft involved would be the A-10 "Warthog" typically used against ground targets.

Click Here for a copy of the Maryland National Guard's notification.

In October, DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn wrote to the Maryland National Guard expressing concerns about the proposal saying--

"DCNR has concerns regarding the proposal and its impact on wildlife, residents and visitors and the communities that rely on the outdoors for steady tourism revenue.

"The proposed activity would drastically change the character of this region and the numerous state parks and forests that shape its unique conservation landscape and wilderness."

"Twelve state parks would be impacted by this proposed activities, including Bucktail, Cherry Springs, Denton Hill, Elk, Kettle Creek, Lyman Run, Ole Bull, Patterson, Prouty Place, Sinnemahoning and Sizerville."

"[The proposed Low MOA training area] ... is the Commonwealth's greatest concentration of public lands, the state's largest acreage of wilderness and is home to two National Wild & Scenic Rivers, the largest elk herd in the northeast, and Cherry Springs State Park, a Gold Level Dark Sky Park designated by the International Dark Sky Association."

"If the proposed Low MOA is approved there will be an impact on outdoor recreation, especially for those that are seeking a wilderness experience.  This impact may constitute a conversion [of use for properties conserved in the area under the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund] which will require the acquisition of replacement land."

DCNR made a series of recommendations to be considered in the environmental assessment--

-- Consider a no-action alternative or another location;

-- Eliminating any low-level flight activity directly above state parks and key recreational, historical and tourist destinations;

-- Prohibiting the activity during April, May September and October to avoid impacts to raptor migration and the elk rut;

-- Prohibiting the activity on weekends and federal holidays;

-- Prohibiting the activity to avoid interference with key recreational activities, including: Spring Turkey Hunting Saturdays in May; Hunting Seasons for Bear and Deer; Elk Tourism; Calving Seasons for deer and elk and primitive hunting seasons.

"For the reasons indicated above, the agency believes that these low-level airspace activities are not conducive to the nature of this wilderness area and could adversely impact the natural resources and wildlife we protect; impede Pennsylvanian's constitutional right to recreate in our parks and forests; and harm the people and businesses that rely on these lands for their livelihood."

Click Here for a copy of DCNR's letter.

  For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

[Posted: Sept. 23, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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