Wednesday, September 06, 2006

NO-OLF lets red wolves take up the fight in North Carolina

Navy practice pad would ‘jeopardize species,’ lawyers say

By NIKIE MAYO, Staff Writer

The latest force in the fight against the proposed outlying landing field for the border of Washington and Beaufort counties is an entity that can’t speak: endangered red wolves that roam Site C and the neighboring proposed site in Hyde County.

“Several packs of endangered red wolves now inhabit two of the Navy’s proposed (OLF) sites in northeastern North Carolina, including the Navy’s preferred site,” reads a press release from the Southern Environmental Law Center. The Chapel Hill-based firm handles the case against the Navy’s proposed OLF, representing groups such as the National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and the N.C. Wildlife Federation.

“Consequently, if the Navy plans to proceed with the project, it must formally consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and take no action that will jeopardize the species’ continued existence,” the firm’s release states.

The Navy plans to put a concrete practice pad, which would be used to train its pilots, on Site C. The project encompasses 33,000 acres. The bulk of the acreage is in Washington County, and about 5,000 acres are on Beaufort County’s tax books. The land is about halfway between military air bases in Cherry Point and Virginia Beach, Va.

At least eight red wolves — from three packs — have made Site C their hunting ground since the Navy’s first environmental impact statement about the proposed OLF was prepared, according to the firm. “One pack has made the site its exclusive home and one den with three pups was located within the site off the northern end of the proposed runway,” according to SELC’s release.

Red wolves were reintroduced in eastern North Carolina in the late 1980s. They had been declared extinct in the wild in 1980.

“This (discovery) is significant new information that bears directly on the Navy’s preferred site. ... The Navy must thoroughly analyze impacts to these red-wolf populations in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement,” SELC attorney Derb Carter said.

Navy spokesman Ted Brown was mum on whether the wolves would impact the Navy’s plans at Site C.

“We’ve received the press release from the SELC, but we’ve not received anything yet from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Brown said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “It would be inappropriate to comment until we receive something from our cooperating agency,” he said.

The Navy is preparing the court-ordered SEIS related to putting an OLF in the region.

“We’re still tracking for fall,” Brown said.

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