Jerome Walker Cumberland Island WildernessWilderness Watch is concerned over a proposal to launch commercial rockets over the Cumberland Island Wilderness off the coast of southern Georgia. Camden County’s commercial space launch site would be less than five miles from Cumberland Island National Seashore. The proposal poses a grave threat to the seashore and the Cumberland Island Wilderness, which Wilderness Watch has long-fought to protect. Cumberland is the largest barrier island Wilderness in the East and a designated international biosphere reserve.

In March, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) whose preferred alternative allows for 36 tests and 12 commercial rocket launches every year over the island’s north end—the location of Cumberland Island Wilderness.

Camden County’s spaceport would have huge negative impacts on the Wilderness as well as the seashore, wildlife, and the area’s many visitors. The launches would shatter the area’s natural sounds, stress native wildlife including threatened and endangered species, create major safety concerns from rocket fuel and ignited debris falling from exploding rockets, and could force the Park Service to close and evacuate the Wilderness and National Seashore multiple times per year. (The preferred alternative allows closures of up to 12 hours per each of the 12 launch days per year, plus up to three hours for each of the 36 tests allowed per year.)

Clearly, the intrusion, noise, trash, and other impacts pose a major threat to the Cumberland Island Wilderness. The FAA needs to reject Camden County’s ill-advised rocket launch site near Cumberland.

 

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Photo: View from Brickhill Bluff, one of three backcountry designated campsites in the Cumberland Island Wilderness, looking west to the mainland, where the proposed Spaceport would be located. By Jerome Walker.

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