(OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, WA.) -- In a Friday, Feb. 27 letter, Washington State's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) told the U.S. Navy it will not participate in a plan to train fighter jet pilots in detecting enemy electronic signals over the Olympic National Forest.
“The Department of Natural Resources had serious concerns regarding the proposed uses of state trust lands in this project, so we will not be participating,” senior DNR advisor Matthew Randazzo wrote in an email to the Port Townsend Leader newspaper on Friday.
The report says the Navy is currently awaiting permission from the U.S. Forest Service to send utility trucks outfitted with "mobile emitters of electromagnetic radiation to 12 of 15 preselected sites on the Olympic Peninsula’s west end." The other three sites are on DNR land located within Jefferson County on the peninsula's west end.
DNR Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark sent a letter to Rear Admiral Jeffrey Ruth, commander of Navy Region Northwest saying that although DNR has not received a formal land use or lease applicaiton for the project, DNR land has been "publicly discussed as a location" for the Navy's proposed electromagnetic warfare training on the Olympic Peninsula but DNR feels it is "adequately informed to decide that we would not be interested in participating in this training exercise.”
The area is a designated World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve
Olympic National Park is a sprawling (922,650 acres) recreational paradise located in Wash. State on the Olympic Peninsula which takes up land on four different counties: Jefferson, Clallam, Mason and Grays Harbor counties.
It has four basic regions: the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, the west side temperate rainforest and the forests of the drier east side. The park draws over 2.9 million visitors a year and in 1976 was designated an International Biosphere Reserve, and in 1981 was designated a World Heritage Site. Seven years later the U.S. Congress designated 95 percent of the park as the Olympic Wilderness.
Other items from the Leader report:
The Navy had yet to request the DNR's permission to use those three sites, said a Navy spokesperson. He added that until they can review the letter, it's hard to say how the Navy will respond.
The U.S. Navy has conducted electronic warfare training above the Olympic Peninsula for nearly 40 years. Adding the electronic signal emitters to that training would "enhance that training and doing so on the Olympic Peninsula would save warfare aircraft crews a 400-mile trip to Idaho."
In DNR's letter, Goldmark calls the Navy “one of its most important and collaborative partners,” and that it is because of this "excellent working relationship across a broad array of priority issues that we feel it is important to inform the Navy of one project we would prefer not to partner on at this time."
The Forest Service ranger responsible for deciding whether to permit the Navy’s use of 12 forest roads, is reviewing public comments on the Navy's environmental assessment as well as its finding that the proposed use of those roads would have no significant impact on the natural environment or human communities.