Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;   president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org


January 2014 Guest Column


Nero is Fiddling Whie Rome Burns

Nero is fiddling while Rome continues to burn. That is my impression of the concerted

effort to build a private commercial spaceport in the Merritt Island National Wildlife

Refuge. We already know that the Indian River Lagoon is in big trouble from pollution.

One proponent of this horrendous venture claims that a spaceport will be a net gain for

the environment.. By what stretch of the imagination can this be so? Wildlife exists here

in spite of NASA's activities and has endured with the help of the United States Fish &

Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

One may assume that NASA does all that it can to mitigate negative environmental

consequences, though no impact studies have been produced after the shuttle program.

How can we be sure that this industry is ecologically safe? Toxic chemical spills

including ammonia, PCB's and volatile organic compounds have been found at the

orbiter processing facility and vehicle assembly building. Accidents and anomalies will

happen. How much more can the environment absorb without negative impact?


Space Florida Incorporated (an independent special district) wants 200 acres

of our National Wildlife Refuge for commercial space ventures. They have not had any

support from NASA, the Department of Interior, the National Park Service, or the

United Staes Fish and Wildlife Service. Space Florida does have support of our local

governments and politicians all the way up to Washington DC. Our leaders are willing

to give away our national heritage and our natural resources all in the name of

commerce and jobs. This action is tyrannical and is a threat to our national security.

Paramount is the fact that the private spaceport violates the Federal Rule 4(f) which

states, “Agencies cannot approve the use of land from publicly owned parks,

recreational areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges or public and private historical sites.”

This sensitive area supports a thriving eco-tourist based economy. It also contains

historic sites of national significance.


Decades of effort by park service personnel and millions of dollars will be wasted, and

for naught if this land is industrialized. The sad irony is that this is happening on the

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge's 50th anniversary.

We live here and want our environment as vital and healthy as it can be. We do not

want our wildlife threatened or our ecosystem destroyed. If we want our planet saved, it

is time to stand up and be heard. Do not let reckless, uncaring entrepreneurs ruin our

wildlife refuge and the Mosquito Lagoon. The last thing we need is another spaceport

on its shore. Private industry already operates at the Kennedy Space Center and

Patrick Air Force Base. Why let the greedy prevail to take more land? This is an insult

to all who must put up with this wanton waste of our Mother Earth.

Space Florida insists that it only needs a small footprint at Shiloh in the refuge. Rockets

produce millions of pounds of thrust...which is no small footprint. This thrust is

produced by kerosene and liquid oxygen which will cause poisonous exhaust to rain

down on our precious lagoon and the refuge.

The St. John's River Water Management District has declared that the Indian River Lagoon is

one of “Florida''s  Outstanding Waterbodies”. This lagoon system includes the Merritt

Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore. No part or parcel

of these two national treasures should be taken away for any other purpose. The

mission goal of our National Park System is to conserve and enhance these lands for

the enjoyment of America's people. These are hallowed places where man and animal

can find safe harbor and flourish.

Once upon a time, wealthy and powerful men set aside for the American people a

wonder of beautiful lands called the National parks. It was Americaʼs best idea. Now

wealthy and powerful men want to take it away. What a shame it is that mankind is

willing to destroy more of the Earth while looking for another planet to live on once this

one is consumed. We do not want oil wells in Yosemite or strip mines in the

Yellowstone. Why would we want rocket launch pads in our National Wildlife Refuge?

Please speak up and say “No-go at Shiloh.”

Thank you,

Jake Sachs