Judge: Navy SEALS can't use Washington State Parks for training exercises

A judge has ruled that the Navy SEALs will not be able to use Washington State Parks as training grounds, according to The Navy Times.

In January of 2021, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted to approve the Navy's proposal to use over 20 state parks for training purposes. 

However, residents near impacted parks and recreationalists complained about not feeling safe seeing SEALs emerge from the water in the cover of darkness or from seeing armed soldiers dart in and out of sight in the parks.  

The Northwest News Network also reports that many recreationalists said during public commentary that they would avoid these areas for fear that SEALs would watch them without the knowledge or consent of visitors.

Nearby residents also argued during public commentary that state parks are supposed to serve as a place to relax. 

Before the ruling, the Navy contended that SEAL training in the parks has not interfered with visitors, noting that there is no use of live-fire ammunition or explosive devices.

On Friday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon said the commission’s 2021 decision was illegal and outside its purview, which includes the protection and enhancement of parks, according to The Navy Times.

In addition, Dixon ruled the commission violated the State Environmental Policy Act by not considering fully how the trainings could deter visitors.

The Navy paused training at state parks back in January of this year as the legal battle over its use wound its way through the court system. 

The Navy has used Washington state coastal parks for over 30 years for SEAL cold water training and other special operations exercises, with leaders saying the area offers the perfect environment to simulate what the elite forces may encounter on difficult operations overseas.

"This area provides a unique environment of cold water, extreme tidal changes, multi-variant currents, low visibility, complex underwater terrain, climate and rigorous land terrain, which provides an advanced training environment," Navy spokesman Joe Overton told Coffee or Die Magazine. 

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