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Cape Residents Sent Barrage of Emails Opposing Machine Gun Range

Massachusetts National Guard
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.

Nearly 370 Cape Cod residents emailed the Massachusetts Army National Guard over the summer, most to say they oppose its plan to build a machine gun range on Joint Base Cape Cod. 


The comments were submitted during a month-long public comment period, and, in recent days, were released to the Association to Preserve Cape. The environmental group filed a public records request to unveil the comments in January.   


Andrew Gottlieb, executive director of APCC, said the overwhelming majority of comments— 90% percent —oppose the range. 


“Of the 367 public comments received by the Guard, 330 opposed the project. Nine comments were in support of the project. An additional 28 took a neutral position, most of those seeking information or requesting an extended comment period,” he said.


Many of the comments, which can be viewed on APCC's website, include concerns about how the project, which would require the clearcutting of 170 acres, could affect wildlife and the sole source aquifer running underneath the base that supplies drinking water to Upper Cape towns.


“The underlying theme around all of them is an ongoing recognition that water supply and issues are paramount to maintaining quality of life on Cape Cod,” Gottlieb said, “and they have a visceral fear of what happens if it’s not protected.” 


Some of the emails to the guard are paragraphs long — others are very short, with subject lines like “NO to machine gun range.” 


Several specify that they’re not opposed to military training activities on a military training base, but they’re concerned about the Guard’s Environmental Assessment, which found that with appropriate mitigation measures, the range will have “no significant” impact on the environment. 


In an email, an official said the Guard Bureau has gone “above and beyond” in addressing public and environmental safety issues and will be responding to all comments in the coming weeks. 


“Our Environmental and Safety Offices have spent years looking at a variety of factors on how to preserve the safety and the environmental vitality of the local area,” the email stated. “We look forward to providing detailed responses to these comments, sharing the important reviews and studies we've done on this project, and continuing the conversation with residents on how to best move forward."


APCC says now the state Environmental Management Commission must seriously consider the criticisms as they decide whether to approve construction of the range. Gottlieb said he hopes that body sees what he — and 330 others— do. 


“Any legitimate handling of the public comment would lead a reasonable person to believe that the project as current envisioned needs to be sent back for reconsideration,” he said, “or it should be scrapped.” 

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.