Last year, the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice stalled an agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the Navy to use the Ocala National Forest as a bombing range. The coalition questioned the Navy's Environmental Impact Study draft, saying it underestimated the effects that 20,000 bombs dropped each year (only a few hundred are live) had on groundwater and wildlife.
While the final report conceded the bombs do contain cancer-causing elements, it said the Navy cleaned them up quickly enough to prevent damage. Thus, last week, the Forest Service granted the Navy another 20-year lease on the property. Forest Service Supervisor Marcia Kearney indirectly cited post-Sept. 11 military needs. That follows the Navy's recent announcement that it would spend $158 million to improve East Coast bombing ranges, including Ocala, to make up for the upcoming closure of the Vieques bombing range off Puerto Rico.