Wildlife imperiled by missile defense

The Pentagon admitted this week that its plan to build a National Missile

Defense system capable of shooting incoming missiles out of the sky may

disrupt some fisheries, feeding grounds for wild animals and other portions

of the nation's ecosystem.

A draft version of an environmental impact statement was released Monday

by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. It concludes that the construction

of additional information technology infrastructure for an NMD system could

result in short- and long-term disruptions to the ecosystems surrounding

the proposed construction sites.

The Clinton administration will decide in June whether to deploy an NMD

system.

Facilities are planned in Alaska and North Dakota to house ground-based

interceptors (GBI), battle management command and control systems, In-Flight

Interceptor Communications Data Terminals and radar terminals for tracking

incoming missiles.

The plan also calls for new fiber-optic cable lines to be buried amid wetlands

and wildlife feeding areas as well as beneath the ocean floor.

Although the Pentagon study concluded that the disruptions to surrounding

ecosystems will be minimal, there are risks.

According to the study, burying fiber-optic cables "too close to rookeries

or feeding grounds could force sea lions to move away, lowering their potential

for success." Likewise, "wetlands could potentially be affected by the project

through filling, draining, trenching and other general construction activities,"

the study states.

The areas in question provide nesting for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.

The study also warned against the excessive digging of trenches that could

cause damage to wildlife spawning habitats, erosion, alteration of natural

waterways and water quality deterioration.

National Missile Defense command and control systems and GBI locations:

Clear Air Station, AlaskaFort Greely, AlaskaYukon Training Area, AlaskaGrand

Forks, N.D.Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, N.D.

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