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Environmentalists Rally Opposition to Space Launch Complex in Wildlife Refuge

December 31, 2013 | WMFE - Some environmentalists object to a proposed space launch complex within the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. As the Federal Aviation Administration gathers public comment on the complex, environmentalists say they want habitat and public access preserved.

The complex would be at the site of a former citrus community known as Shiloh.

Charles Lee of Audubon of Florida says the location would maximize closures of the refuge and Canaveral National Seashore during launches. He says it also would jeopardize scrub jay habitat where millions of dollars have been invested in restoration.

"Much of that habitat has to be maintained by controlled burns, and you can imagine the difficulty of continuing to control burn an area that is surrounding a rocket site with highly volatile rocket fuels."  

Dale Ketcham of Space Florida says the complex would serve as the world's first commercial orbital launch site for companies like SpaceX. It would accommodate up to 24 launches a year.

"Because the goal is to try to keep a significant portion of the future space exploration from moving elsewhere."

Lee says the complex isn't necessary because already SpaceX can launch from the Space Coast.

Audubon of Florida and other environmental groups like the National Parks Conservation Association wrote to the secretary of the interior in July opposing the complex.

The FAA is studying the complex's environmental impact. Lee says environmentalists from across the state will attend public meetings in February in New Smyrna Beach and Titusville. 


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