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Elected Officials Speak Out Against Proposed Machine Gun Range, Hint at Legal Action

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Massachusetts National Guard
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The red outline on this map of Camp Edwards shows where the Army National Guard is proposing an eight-lane machine gun range. The surface danger zone, where projectiles could land, is highlighted in pink.

Local elected officials are emerging in droves to voice opposition to a proposed machine gun range on Joint Base Cape Cod.

In the last week, Barnstable County commissioners announced they would be exploring legal action, and a group representing 22 municipalities and 105 elected officials on the Cape and Islands added to the chorus of criticism.

Today, the commissioners voted to “authorize legal counsel … to draft and send a letter on behalf of the Barnstable County commissioners to the Environmental Management Commission and other appropriate agencies and officials outlining legal concerns related to the proposed machine gun range proposed for the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve.”

The goal, they said, is to “stop this firing range.”

The move comes just after the Cape and Islands Selectmen and Councilors Association (CCISCA) released a letter saying the Massachusetts Army National Guard's self-assessment of the machine gun range’s environmental impacts was "woefully inadequate" and that the guard has “completely ignored” the wider community, eroding public trust.

“[The Environmental Assessment] glossed over likely impacts of regional significance that would occur if this project were built,” the letter said. “The proposed machine gun range, with its unprecedented amount of land clearing and proposed uses that will threaten public water supplies, endanger significant habitats and rare species, and adversely impact regional carbon sequestration efforts, is simply not compatible with the intended purposes of the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve established by state law.”

The group is urging the state Environmental Management Commission, which holds the power of final approval, to deny the project.

“We are not against a firing range,” said Janet Reinhart, president of CCISCA and a select board member in Welfleet. “We are just feeling this is the inappropriate time and place to do it, that when we’re more than ever concerned about our environment, this is not the appropriate place for it.”

The $11.5 million, eight-lane range would require the clear-cutting of 170 acres of forestland—as part of a 5,000 acre danger zone.

A representative for the Guard said it was unable to comment in time for this story. Previously, officials have defended the range, citing the need for soldier training and mitigation plans to offset environmental impacts.

Activists are now planning to rally against the range on June 26 from 12 a.m. to noon at Forestdale Elementary School.