Military Training on State Lands Questioned

An 1885 Legend has it that a farmer named Tate wandered into a swap, was snake bit and lost for seven days. When he wandered back out, he said he’d been to hell. Now the pristine area is known as Tate’s Hell.

"It’s a critical estuary of Apalachicola Bay,” said state forester Jim Karels.

Tate's Hell is one of two state forests the Air Force wants to use as a training ground. The state signed a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this year.

"All that agreement says, we'll talk to you, we'll entertain looking at opportunities," said Karels.

It is that vagueness that has environmentalists and locals worried.

There has been little public input so far and the fear is that Floridians are being told, your tax payers bought this land, but you can't use it.

Franklin County Commission Chair Cheryl Saunders questioned the proposal at a recent Senate meeting.

"We have had no public input what so ever," said Saunders.

Both Tate’s Hell and Blackwater State Forest, which is the other proposed training sight, are home to dozens of species on the endangered or threatened list. Those asking questions are quick to say they support the military mission. But they worry the plan is being rushed with little or no public input.
"There are ways to do this compatibility and this is just a matter of accountability and transparency and making sure that the public interest is protected," said Julie Wraithmell.

An obscure state board is set to discuss the plan to allow training at Blackwater State Forest on December 12th.

No date has yet been set to discuss the use of Tate's Hell for training.

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