PA Groups Comment on MD Air National Guard Proposed Low-level Flyover Training

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Maurice K. Goddard/Wykoff Run Natural Area in Elk State Forest (photo: Nicholas Tonelli)

Last month, PEC submitted comments to the Maryland Air National Guard about its proposal to expand the Duke Military Operations Area (MOA) in Pennsylvania and New York and begin low-level flyover training in Cameron, Clinton, Elk, McKean, Potter, and Tioga counties.

As proposed, units would be allowed to fly as low as 100 feet within the MOA. According to a Finding of No Significant Impact report by the Maryland Air National Guard, aircrafts could be expected to train for one hour twice a day approximately 170 days of the year.

The proposed training area covers much of the Pennsylvania Wilds region, a 13-county tourism destination known for its large concentration of public lands, wild elk herds, and stargazing opportunities. The region is currently rebuilding its economy around outdoor recreation and tourism. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship sent the Maryland Air National Guard a letter expressing concerns about the proposed Low MOA.

[The proposed MOA] could have a devastating impact on nature tourism development efforts in the PA Wilds.

“Our region is… economically distressed and has seen decades of population loss. To help address this, local, state and federal partners from the public and private sectors began working together more than 15 years ago to establish the PA Wilds as an outdoor recreation destination to help diversify rural economies, create jobs, inspire stewardship and improve quality of life,” wrote Tataboline Enos, CEO, PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc..

“[The proposed MOA] could have a devastating impact on nature tourism development efforts in the PA Wilds, and on the many rural residents who depend on this industry for their livelihoods. Conservation partners in our network have also raised concerns about the impacts to wildlife and ecosystems. We share these concerns. In addition, many veterans call our region home. We worry about the impact that loud, low-level military flights flown overhead repeatedly will have on veterans suffering from PTSD.”

We worry about the impact that loud, low-level military flights flown overhead repeatedly will have on veterans suffering from PTSD.

Pine Creek Gorge, Tioga County (photo: Nicholas Tonelli)

The Conservation & Natural Resources Advisory Council for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources also sent a letter requesting an extension of the public comment period for the proposal from 45 days to at least 90 days.

“There is a high level of community interest, and we believe your providing additional information and engaging in discussion with the impacted communities will help in the ability to provide their input as envisioned under the National Environmental Policy Act,” wrote Geralyn Umstead-Singer, CNRAC Chair.

PEC also requested an extension of the public comment period in its submitted comments, as well as for the Maryland Air National Guard to rescind the draft Finding of No Significant Impact and reassess the Environmental Assessment, taking into account all comments.

Submitted comments are available below.