Saturday, September 2, 2006

US Coast Guard wants live firing ranges -- just like Canada's

This past week, the US Coast Guard announced they are about to begin testing of live shells on the Great Lakes, by setting up 34 live firing ranges. Naturally, there has been a great deal of flack from environmentalists from both the US and Canada, saying it could have a negative impact on pleasure craft and sensitive fish habitats.

Before we Canadians point a finger, however, consider the fact we have had similar live firing ranges for decades -- most of them land based but some which are on shorelines and stretch for some distance into major lakes. Hamilton, for instance, has such a range right on the east edge of town. For as long as I can remember, National Defence has put ads regularly in the local and community newspapers, warning people of a 1700 m exclusion zone stretching into Lake Ontario and telling people not to steer their boats into the cordoned off zone with red buoys. On the shoreline, in giant letters visible from the lake, is the message: DANGER RIFLE RANGE.

Conveniently, it's located right next door to Fifty Point, a popular conservation and recreation area; and while there is a wooded lot that acts as a buffer for the noise, one can still hear the guns and shells if one pays attention long enough.

At least the US Government is allowing a public comment period of 60 days -- pretty surprising given the Bush Administration's penchant not to consult with anyone except the military industrial complex that General Dwight Eisenhower eventually came to hate. Here, it's like they never asked the neighbours if they wanted soldiers firing guns year round -- they just exercised eminent domain. Hopefully, the USCG will back down on this one, or at least find a way to mitigate the noise and possible damage to nature.

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