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Training on the Blackwater River State Forest
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE -- A proposal by Eglin Air Force Base to conduct limited training in the Blackwater River State Forest has some people concerned.
The base would use small parcels for non-hazardous operations.
The forest would only be used when missile tests prevent training on the Eglin Range.
Each operation would have to be cleared in advance with the forest service.
Channel Three's Laura Hussey asked residents why they're worried, and asked the Air Force for answers.
Laura Hussey "It's easy to understand why people want to protect the Blackwater State Forest, just look around. An Air Force spokesman says nothing about their proposal would change any of this"
Blackwater Canoe Rental has provided a living for Opal Barron's family for 33 years.
She's worried that military exercises in the state forest would threaten their way of life.
Opal Barron/Blackwater Canoe Rental "In the summer time, we have a lot of canoes and kayaks and tubes out there, and there just wouldn't be room for anybody else to be on the river"
A spokesman for Eglin Air Force Base says their plan doesn't include using the waterways.
They would use small, ten to fifteen acre parcels that have already been cleared off by the forest service.
Operations would involve low numbers of troops; most of their exercises geared toward arriving quietly and leaving undetected.
There could be helicopter operations, including takeoffs and landings by CV-22 Ospreys.
Dennis Hatcher/Holt "I think it ought to be short and sweet over there. I mean, they have sportsmen that love to hunt and fish, they shouldn't restrict any of their access"
An Eglin spokesman says they have no intention of keeping hunters from hunting, or hikers from hiking.
He says the forest service will have the final say on what they do, and when and where they do it.
There would be no bullets and no bombs.
Hatcher says, "Well, they've pretty well got the right to do it, and they should have. But there still, I think they ought to be held to their word, you know, and I say try it and see"
Laura Hussey "There have already been public meetings about this proposal. There will be more after a draft environmental impact statement is released in November. A final decision is expected in spring of 2014"