Conservation Groups Still Skeptical About Joint Base Machine Gun Range

Updated 3:00 pm October 15, 2021

BOURNE – Joint Base Cape Cod’s planned machine gun range is moving ahead, though conservation groups are still unconvinced of the project’s necessity.

Association to Preserve Cape Cod Executive Director Andrew Gottlieb said he was concerned about the mostly-internally driven environmental impact review, saying that third-party, unbiased researchers should have been brought in to thoroughly examine the project. 

The Massachusetts National Guard’s environmental assessment of the planned range returned a Finding of No Significant Impact, concluding that it does not violate state guidelines or the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act.

The $11.5 million range has also been reviewed and approved by multiple regulatory state bodies, including the Science Advisory Council, though still awaits approval from the Environmental Management Commission.

Gottlieb said that with a track record involving $8 million in recent cleanup costs from PFAS chemical contamination in Mashpee water sources due to previous training on the base, local residents have a right to scrutinize further developments on Joint Base Cape Cod even as cleanup efforts continue. 

To date, programs by the Air Force and Army have invested over $1.2 billion on investigation and cleanup activities at the base.

“It creates unnecessary and unquantified risk to the preservation of those resources and therefore does not meet the standards of Massachusetts law,” Gottlieb said. 

“With the military’s execution of a contract to construct a very similar range in central Massachusetts at [Fort] Devens, the whole rationale for this range needing to go on Cape Cod completely and totally evaporates.”

Joint Base Cape Cod representatives previously said that one benefit of the range on Cape is that it would cut down on time and logistics required to train troops on machine gun weapons, saying the closest facility was in Vermont.

Fort Devens in Ayer also has plans for a machine gun range that Gottlieb said could have been utilized for the machine gun range training—a location that does not sit above a drinking water reserve, like Joint Base Cape Cod does.

However, Fort Devens was not considered as an alternative by National Guard officials, citing size constraints.

“The irony here is that trust had been built up over the last 20 years through a process of open and full disclosure of the issues and the options to manage those issues with the surrounding community and the residents that are impacted,” said Gottlieb. 

“The fact that this facility at [Fort] Devens was never mentioned in their voluminous reports and not shared with the surrounding community is just another indictment of their honesty.”

EDIT: A previous version of this story said that the Joint Base Cape Cod Machine Gun Range project had been approved by the Environmental Management Commission. Approval has not yet been granted by the Commission. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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