Although the Navy has made changes to its website since the West Coast Action Alliance (WCAA) Open Letter to the U.S. Navy was written on August 20, none of those changes reflect any public requests to improve communications with the public. How hard can it be, in an age of mass surveillance, for the government to actually listen to the citizens it is supposed to serve?
Much is happening, the pattern being a doubling down of military encroachment on western Washington’s lands, waters and airspace, along with rapidly growing public opposition. The Navy wants the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary. The Army wants the Cascades, southwest Washington, and south Puget Sound. They want to bomb, fire rockets, land attack helicopters, install 720 sonobuoys, conduct electronic warfare over our heads, and use sonar that is orders of magnitude louder than the loudest Navy jets. They have confused the public with multiple separate processes for geographically and functionally related actions. At risk are a World Heritage site, a marine sanctuary rich in marine life, Wilderness areas, a piece of the Pacific Crest Trail, the most important nesting habitat for threatened marbled murrelets, and the peace and quiet of a region famous for it. The military already owns hundreds of thousands of square miles to practice in (see this map file). Why is that not enough?
Much is happening to feel encouraged about, too. The West Coast Action Alliance is in contact with senior officials at UNESCO who are concerned about the threat to Olympic National Park’s World Heritage status. A briefing paper prepared by a committee of concerned citizens is being circulated through multiple channels at UNESCO. It is the public’s intent to raise awareness in not just our own region, but the entire world.
The US Forest Service is due to publish its final Notice of Decision in late September or early October, on whether to issue the permit to the Navy to drive mobile emitters around Olympic National Forest roads so they can practice electronic warfare. We should probably brace ourselves, because the Forest Service has not indicated it is going to deny that permit. When the notice comes out, we will have a 30-day comment period to object, but here’s the hitch: in order to have your comments accepted, you have to be one of the 4,000 people who wrote comments to the Forest Service back in autumn 2014, about the same issue. Back then it was all draft; this time it’ll be their final decision. Comment again and you will have the standing to participate in legal remedies. We will announce this.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest Biological Opinion, a document evaluating impacts to threatened and endangered species posed by the Navy’s proposed actions, is due in October. The Navy cannot legally proceed without it; therefore, it deserves our utmost attention and scrutiny. We will post it on this web site.
The Army’s comment period on landing combat helicopters in pristine wilderness beloved by many has been extended to November 3, 2015. If you haven’t written them a letter, feel free to borrow language from these talking points or this joint comment letter from 25 organizations.
To keep up with media coverage of events, it’s a good idea to periodically check this web site’s News Stories page.
UPDATE (October 8):
- A final Navy Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) endorsing Northwest Testing and Training (NWTT) is due out this month (replacing an earlier controversial EA); essentially an end around NEPA reporting requirements - with no comment period.
- West Coast Action Alliance is connecting with Congressional senior leadership this week to protest the Navy's segmentation notification processes, all side-stepping NEPA reporting requirements, in addition to multiple Endangered Species Act violations.
- The US Forest Service plans to issue the necessary permit for testing and training and war games over the Olympic Peninsula next month (November).