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Sun, Jan 09, 2022

Homestead Air Base Sees Friction With Wildlife Activists

Worries Arise Over Possible High-Intensity Cargo Ops

An airport slated to begin accepting General Aviation service is again the subject of debate in a continuation of the usual state of affairs for the region.

Homestead Air Reserve Base has always been beset by local activists owing to its location between two national parks among the Florida wetlands. The airport stands near FedEx and Amazon businesses, increasing the value of adding to its utility.

In years past, the Air Force had examined the viability of expansions into a commercial or public airport, ultimately blocked because of the territorial expansions needed to enter service. The nearby Miami Executive Airport lies 17 miles away, and the location of Homestead has long been eyed as a relief and overflow option, to the chagrin of naturalists. Many problems have stemmed not just from an increasing operational tempo in the vicinity, but from the necessary expansions that would be required for adequate operational support. The nearby business centers seem to be driving much of the demand, with county officials driving hard to the hoop in order to open an FBO ahead of an additional $22 million Amazon distribution center under construction.

Local wildlife preservation group Friends of the Everglades has worried about the development plans as uncovered under a FOIA request.

County personnel indicate they find the surrounding area to be fertile ground for economic expansion, and suitable land for construction is at a premium in the bustling area. The nearby wetlands have only recently begun to heal from decades of misuse, with an Air Force program to address WWII era fuel tank spills being completed in 2006. The wildlife has begun its rebound, and proponents of preservation fear that the increased traffic, noise, and pollution could permanently damage that recovery for decades. 

“It is clear to us that opening up HARB to civilian use is likely to lead to the kinds of intensive uses, including commercial cargo operations, that the Air Force wisely prohibited decades ago,” said Eve Samples, executive director of Friends of the Everglades. 

FMI: www.homestead.afrc.af.mil

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