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POSTED: May 26, 2007 5:03 a.m.
Fort Stewart is receiving public comment until Monday on its construction of a firing point for its 32-ton M109A6 Paladin howitzers in an area which is part of the range of the endangered or threatened red-cockaded woodpecker, Eastern indigo snake and flatwoods salamander.
The artillery firing point, designated 311, is in the C-7 training area near the center of Fort Stewart.
One reason for the site selection, the Army says, is that part of it was cleared by mistake in 2002.
Development of the AFP 311 location into a Paladin-capable firing point includes the site preparation necessary to result in a 500 square meter standard artillery training site.  
The area is generally forested and part of what Fort Stewart calls “habitat management units” for red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snake and flatwoods salamander.  
The Environmental Division Forestry Management Branch will remove any remaining merchantable timber remaining from the 2002 accidental tree harvest; all remaining timber and/or related debris (such as stumps) will be the responsibility of the construction contractor.  
A 155-acre area will be clear cut to establish AFP 311. This plan would include the subsequent training/operations, maintenance, and as-needed repairs to 311. Another firing point, 313, would be returned to the installation’s habitat management units for threatened and endangered species.
The Army’s environmental assessment says the firing point “may affect, but is unlikely to adversely affect” the three species. One identified cluster of red-cockaded woodpeckers will lose 91 acres of its foraging area when AFP 311 is constructed.
The 32-ton Paladins fire a 155 mm shell and are known for their “shoot and scoot” capability. The modern A6 Paladins, with which Third Infantry Division units are equipped, can fire their heavy guns, move to avoid enemy counterbattery fire, and within 60 seconds of coming to a stop in a new location, acquire their target and resume firing. Rate of fire is four rounds per minute.
The range of the 155 mm shells is 30 kilometers and the Paladin can move at 35 mph.
Another reason the Army cites for its choice of AFP 311 is its location on the eastern side of state Highway 119.
 The AFPs are also used by Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), another form of artillery.  Most of the Fort Stewart AFPs are located on the west side of 119, with the MLRS firing into the artillery impact area on the east side of the highway.  
Army regulations require all non-mission essential personnel must be cleared from these areas prior to these training events, thereby requiring 119 to be closed.
Comments on the AFP 311 proposal should be mailed to:

Environmental Division
Thomas Fry
Directorate of Public Works
HQS, Fort Stewart
1550 Frank Cochran Dr., Bldg. 1137
Fort Stewart, GA 31314-4927

The Army has made copies of the Finding Of No Significant Impact and the environmental assessment available at the Post Library and at libraries in Liberty and Chatham counties.
A CD of these documents can be requested.
 

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