Over 500 people turned out at a hearing held by the Federal Aviation Administration concerning Space Florida’s proposal to build multiple rocket launch sites in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at “Shiloh” on February 11.
Click here to see the Op-Ed in the Daytona Beach News-Journal by Audubon's Charles Lee.
Most of the crowd and speakers were strongly opposed to disrupting the National Wildlife Refuge, Mosquito Lagoon, and Canaveral National Seashore for the project. Audubon led the drive to attract attendance to the hearing and many of the speakers were Audubon chapter leaders and Audubon members who regularly visit Merritt Island NWR for birdwatching. One of the threats posed by the new launch complex is closure of a major part of the refuge, Mosquitio Lagoon, and Canaveral National Seashore to public access for what could be many weeks during the year.
The proposed launch site is in an area under active restoration by US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for Florida Scrub-Jays. Habitat restoration has cost over $2 million in the past 5 years, and it is almost certain that even the restored habitat remaining outside the launch complex would be lost due to the fact that USFWS would be prevented from conducting necessary controlled burns to keep the habitat in place.
On Monday, February 10, U.S. Congressman John Mica held a House Oversight Committee hearing at Kennedy Space Center. Charles Lee, Audubon Florida Director of Advocacy was invited to testify. After Lee’s testimony, Congressman Mica and Florida Congressman Bill Posey asked Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana if there was room for Space Florida’s facility in the existing NASA launch area south of State Road 402. Cabana responded that ample areas were available, and indicated that NASA’s recently approved plan for future use of the NASA complex provided space for both commercial facilities such as Space Florida proposes, and government launch sites through the year 2031 without any intrusion into the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge north of State Road 402.
Both Congressmen then pointedly asked Space Florida representatives to provide supplementary testimony to the committee indicating what they would need from NASA to locate the Space Florida launch site there rather than at Shiloh in the heart of the public use area of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Audubon’s Testimony at the Congressional Hearing can be found by clicking here.