Public input opportunity on Blackwater River and Tate’s Hell State Forests Dec. 12 in Tallahassee

December 9, 2013

New River in Tate's Hell State Forest. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
New River in Tate’s Hell State Forest. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Recreational use of Blackwater River and Tate’s Hell State Forests in jeopardy

We are facing a threat to our unfenced and full use, night and day, of our two largest state forests, Tate’s Hell State Forest and Blackwater River State Forest.  If you are a paddler, camper, fisherman/woman, or hunter, usage of these precious natural areas could be severely limited, or even removed in the near future, as proposed military exercises could eclipse public usage of the landscape.

If you have input on the subject, there will be a meeting in Tallahassee on Dec. 12., 2013 at 9 a.m., at the Douglas Building, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd. in Tallahassee (off I-10 at Capital Circle, NW interchange). The Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) will be holding a hearing.  The 10 year management plan of Blackwater River State Forest is item number 7 on their agenda. The plan can be viewed at Note pages 3, 19, 20.

The December 12 meeting of ARC provides an opportunity for those who oppose the military exercises in Blackwater River State Forest to speak to the section of the 10 year management plan which allows this activity.

Those wishing to testify can sign up at the meeting room, ground floor Conference room A.

The evening before, on December 11, and the evening of the hearing, December 12,  Florida Forestry and Eglin Air Force Base will be jointly sponsoring a “town hall” meeting on what the plans are for Blackwater River State Forest.   The December 11 meeting will be in Milton at 6 p.m. at the Milton Community Center, is to answer the public’s questions about the proposed military plans only, and the 12th in Apalachicola. This will not have a bearing on the plan — forestry has already submitted the 10 year plan to ARC for consideration.

On October 27, 2012 Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US Air Force at Eglin (464,000 acres) “to allow limited military missions on portions of Blackwater River State Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest.”   In December 2012, Governor Rick Scott reaffirmed the permission granted to the air force for these purposes.

Lands owned by the state of Florida which were acquired for conservation and restoration purposes are regulated by statute.  All managers of these lands must submit plans which must be approved by the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC).

On the state level, this leaves ARC with an important decision, whether to approve the plan with the implied or specified military use,  to delay consideration on certain sections of the plan until it can be fully determined that these activities would not have a harmful impact on the forest, or to approve the plan after removing all language implied or explicit which would allow for military exercises in this forest.

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