Forests not the place for training

A proposal by the U.S. Navy to use forest lands on the Olympic Peninsula and elsewhere in the state for electronic warfare training by jets based at Naval Station Whidbey Island has received a “not interested” from the state. The response from the U.S. Forest Service should be the same.

The Navy has sought to increase its use of National Forest and state Department of Natural Resources land west of Olympic National Park, using forest roads open to the public to send out three trucks about the size of a pickup and camper equipped with devices that emit electromagnetic signals. The intent is for Whidbey’s EA-18G Growler jets, flying around 10,000 feet in altitude, to search for and locate the signals and simulate elimination of the targets. Currently, the training is performed in Idaho. The Navy is seeking training closer to the Whidbey base.

The response from state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark earlier this month was that the state would not be participating in the training exercise. Natural Resources later told the Associated Press that use of the state’s lands for training “would adversely impact the diverse and complex uses that we’re mandated to manage on behalf of the public.”

In addition to the annoyance and noise from increased jet flights over the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest and the Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee national forests, there is also a lack of clarity from the Navy about the potential for harm from the electromagnetic signals used in the training.

In its own information about the proposal, the Navy attempts to minimize the risk from the signals, comparing them to the type of emissions from cellphones and Bluetooth devices. The emitters, when in use, would be 14 feet off the ground, directing the signals into the sky. The trucks themselves would be cordoned off in a 100-foot radius with signs reading, “Warning/Radio Frequency Hazard; Personnel Hazard Exists In This Area; Keep Moving.”

But accidental direction of the electronic signals could be a problem for any person, animal or bird in their path. A Navy spokesman told the Peninsula Daily News in October that “if someone is in the exclusion area for more than 15 minutes, that’s a ballpark estimate for when there would be some concern for potential to injure, to receive burns.”

Clearly, this involves signals much stronger than your cellphone or Bluetooth device.

Each truck’s two-person crew would be on hand to tell people not to loiter, but that puts a lot of expectation on how attentive the crews would be.

The Navy completed its own environmental assessment and found no significant impact from its proposal. With a no from the state, the Navy now awaits permission from the U.S. Forest Service.

The need for the Navy to train its fliers for their missions isn’t being challenged, but the potential for harm to people and wildlife calls for conditions and an environment that offer better control and safety than are available in forest lands open to the public. One suggestion for a more suitable site: How about the 327,000 secured acres of Joint Base Lewis McChord’s Yakima Training Center?

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, April 17

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

A new apple variety, WA 64, has been developed by WSU's College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. The college is taking suggestions on what to name the variety. (WSU)
Editorial: Apple-naming contest fun celebration of state icon

A new variety developed at WSU needs a name. But take a pass on suggesting Crispy McPinkface.

Apply ‘Kayden’s Law’ in Washington’s family courts

Next session, our state Legislature must pass legislation that clarifies how family… Continue reading

What religious icons will Trump sell next?

My word! So now Donald Trump is in the business of selling… Continue reading

Commen: ‘Civil War’ movie could prompt some civil discourse

The dystopian movie serves to warn against division and for finding common ground in our concerns.

Liz Skinner, right, and Emma Titterness, both from Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, speak with a man near the Silver Lake Safeway while conducting a point-in-time count Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The man, who had slept at that location the previous night, was provided some food and a warming kit after participating in the PIT survey. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Among obstacles, hope to curb homelessness

Panelists from service providers and local officials discussed homelessness’ interwoven challenges.

FILE - In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2018, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee is joining state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Editorial: ‘History, tradition’ poor test for gun safety laws

Judge’s ruling against the state’s law on large-capacity gun clips is based on a problematic decision.

This combination of photos taken on Capitol Hill in Washington shows Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., on March 23, 2023, left, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on Nov. 3, 2021. The two lawmakers from opposing parties are floating a new plan to protect the privacy of Americans' personal data. The draft legislation was announced Sunday, April 7, 2024, and would make privacy a consumer right and set new rules for companies that collect and transfer personal data. (AP Photo)
Editorial: Adopt federal rules on data privacy and rights

A bipartisan plan from Sen. Cantwell and Rep. McMorris Rodgers offers consumer protection online.

Students make their way through a portion of a secure gate a fence at the front of Lakewood Elementary School on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. Fencing the entire campus is something that would hopefully be upgraded with fund from the levy. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Levies in two north county districts deserve support

Lakewood School District is seeking approval of two levies. Fire District 21 seeks a levy increase.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, April 16

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Harrop: Expect no compromise from anti-abortion right

And no clarity from Donald Trump regarding his position, at least until he’s back in office.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.