The Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative recently sent a strongly worded letter to the Army National Guard stating its opposition to the proposed machine gun firing range on the base. The organization called the Guard’s environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact “fatally deficient.”
The collaborative’s letter carries, or should carry, a good deal of weight. The organization is composed of representatives of a broad swath of Cape businesses and organizations. Board members, just for example, include Dorothy Savarese, president and chief executive officer of Cape Cod Five Savings Bank; Wendy Northcross, executive director of the Cape Chamber of Commerce; Maggie Downey, executive director, Cape Light Compact; and Brian McGurk, co-director, Faith Communities Environmental Network. There are others, but these names should be familiar to residents of the Upper Cape.
The collaborative lists a number of objections, but the thrust of the message is that the National Guard ignored the impact of the destruction of 170 acres of woodland on the climate.
And it does. Most of the environmental assessment reads as though it were written 30 years or more ago. It addresses soils, groundwater, infrastructure, air quality and state-listed species of concern. It addresses habitat and concludes that the range would be beneficial due to wildfire management and open space that would be provided for migratory birds. It also addresses noise and finds that there would be no negative impact. Residents of Sandwich might have something to say about that.
But there is no mention of the impact of cutting forestland.
“Research on carbon sequestration,” the collaborative wrote, “indicates that mature forests, such as those on Camp Edwards, can potentially sequester between 1 and 1.6 metric tons per acre per year.” That is 200 to 300 US tons of carbon a year.
The National Guard could argue that point. It’s environmental assessment calculates that the current practice of sending soldiers out of state for training “results in the generation of 724 US tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually” and “the Proposed Action would reduce this amount of vehicle emissions by 82 percent.”
That would be an unflattering argument of the lesser of two evils.
The better thing to do would be to find a place on the base that would not involve deforestation. That would mean the National Guard would not get the Cadillac of firing ranges that would accommodate all armaments, but it would be an acceptable compromise.