Letters from the public and organizations like Georgia ForestWatch typically improve Forest Service project proposals. Sometimes though, projects that receive initial Forest Service approval still contain major issues. In those cases, people may formally object and have the decision reviewed by the next official up the Forest Service hierarchy, though there are some requirements that must be satisfied in order to object.
The Southern Environmental Law Center will file an objection to the proposed Union County Target Range project on behalf of the Sierra Club, Georgia ForestWatch, and their members.
The objection period for the project is open through September 23, 2019. Information about the project is available here.
Under Forest Service regulations, individuals may also file an objection but only if they submitted timely, prior written comments to the agency about the same project. You may also only object based on issues raised in your comment letter and must include a statement linking the issues in your objection to discussion of the issue in your comment letter. Individual members of Sierra Club and Georgia ForestWatch may not file objections based on issues raised in the comment letters submitted by those organizations, unless they raised the same issues in personal comments.
The exception to the requirements above is that anyone may raise an issue in an objection if the issue is based on new information that became available after the opportunity to comment.
Instructions on how to file an objection and a list minimum requirements that must be included in an objection (such as contact information, etc.) are available in this cover letter announcing the opportunity to object.
The Forest Service must respond to objections before it can implement this project.
What’s Going On
On October 12, 2018 The U. S. Forest Service released a Scoping Notice announcing the development of a 15-acre shooting range in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. The location of the proposed shooting range (off Highway 180 between mile markers 18 and 19) is less than one mile from the Appalachian Trail (AT) and approximately one-half mile from both the Brasstown Bald and Mark Trail Wilderness Area boundaries. The Union County government will be the primary permit holder of the target range, although the day-to-day operations will be managed by the Union County Gun Club.
Why it matters
Georgia ForestWatch is concerned about the noise generated by the shooting range, as the gun reports will likely be heard from the AT as well as by hunters and campers in the two nearby Wilderness Areas. The actual need for such a project also remains in question, as there is already an existing shooting range 3.5 miles from the proposed site in nearby Towns County.