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Environmental group files appeal over Navy training in Washington state parks

By KIMBERLY CAUVEL | Skagit Valley Herald | Published: March 10, 2021

(Tribune News Service) — The Whidbey Environmental Action Network is appealing the State Parks and Recreation Commission's decision to allow Navy SEAL training in 28 state parks including at Deception Pass State Park and others in Skagit and Island counties.

"The decision would allow naval special operations groups carrying simulated weapons to engage in clandestine military training operations in the water, across beaches, and into the uplands of twenty-eight coastal state parks and to remain hidden for extended lengths of time while surreptitiously surveilling other ... park visitors," the appeal, filed Monday in Thurston County Superior Court, states.

After reviewing the Navy's proposal to conduct training in several state parks, the State Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-3 on Jan. 28 to allow the Navy to submit permit applications on a park-by-park basis.

The lawsuit argues that the commission did not review the proposal thoroughly enough under the State Environmental Policy Act, SEPA. The impacts, according to the appeal, could be significant, particularly to the recreational activities supported by the natural environments preserved on state park land.

"These training activities have a significant potential to deter public use of state parks by those who do not want to recreate near military training operations, war games, and simulated weaponry. These activities may frighten park visitors and damage natural resources," the appeal states.

Whidbey Environmental Action Network is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving wildlife on Whidbey Island.

Six state parks included in the Navy's training proposal are on or near Whidbey Island.

A portion of Deception Pass State Park is located on northern Whidbey Island; the other portion is on south Fidalgo Island. Fort Casey, Fort Ebey, Joseph Whidbey and South Whidbey state parks are also located on Whidbey Island, and the Skagit Island Marine State Park is nearby.

The organization is being represented by Seattle law firm Bricklin & Newman, and asking the court to reverse the State Parks and Recreation Commission's decision and earlier issuance of a mitigated determination of non-significance under SEPA.

kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com

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