The Massachusetts National Guard’s plans for a new machine gun range at Camp Edwards is running into strong headwinds. There are concerns about clearing some 170 acres of forest, and there are concerns about the aquifer. Eric Turkington and Mark Forest are reminding us that some 20 years ago it was decided that use of the 15,000-acre area would be limited to activities that are compatible with water supply and protection of wildlife. The National Guard in the meantime maintains that the range must go there; there are no alternatives.
Maybe, but maybe not.
The US Army is moving forward with a similar project at Fort Devens, where an existing machine gun range is being renovated. Lighter gunnery would be used there, and it will be four lanes, not eight, as the Cape range would be. But both projects involve 800-meter ranges, and both come in at a cost of $11 million. The Cape project includes the creation of a surface danger zones area on approximately 5,197 acres. The Fort Devens area is 4,880 acres.
We imagine the Massachusetts Army National Guard sees no relation between the two projects; one is Army, the other National Guard, and one accommodates lighter guns.
But it seems disingenuous that the Guard made no mention of the Fort Devens range in its explanation of alternatives, even if it were to reject is as not viable. The Guard maintains that soldiers must be moved hundreds of miles to other states to receive their required training. But is that really the case?
The Army National Guard’s planned range on the base is facing increasing opposition and criticism. It’s not going to get easier for them if Guard officials do not open up and give better accounting across the board.