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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 18) - North Carolina's wildlife agency remains firm in its opposition to the U.S. Navy proposal to build a jet landing strip next to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, demanding that another location be selected.

A strong and deliberate message was delivered by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to the Navy at a final public hearing, held Tuesday night at the Charlotte Convention Center.

"In the eyes of the Commission, this poorly designed plan is as shortsighted and irresponsible as putting a boiler factory in a hospital," said Charles Bennett, a Wildlife Commissioner from Matthews. "This vital area is irreplaceable to the hundreds of thousands of waterfowl and other wildlife, game and non-game, which are supported by this great area of North Carolina."

Bennett is chairman of the Commission's Nongame, Habitat and Endangered Species Committee and a sitting member of the Cold Water Fisheries Committee, influential natural resource panels that utilize the facts and findings of top state and federal biologists.

"It is more than probable that the introduction of high-speed aircraft, including the noise they will create, will irrevocably damage the habitat and the environment," he said of the proposed landing field, known in military terms as an Outlying Landing Field, or OLF.

More than 300 people attended the public hearing, which was extended past 11 p.m. to accommodate the number of speakers. A steady procession of environmentalists, sportsmen, property rights proponents and farmers from across the state expressed opposition to selecting a site in an area that is in the Atlantic Flyway for migratory waterfowl and a critical wintering ground for tundra swans and snow geese.

In order to conduct an estimated 32,000 annual touch-and-go flights annually, the Navy would need to effectively manage the nearby waterfowl populations. Among control techniques suggested by the Navy is killing unwanted wildlife with the toxin Avitrol, despite its illegal status in this state.

In addition to a unanimous resolution against the OLF approved April 4, Wildlife Resources Commissioners have asked Congress to deny funding for the site.
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