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US military halt valley training

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By Donald Turvill
Annan and Eskdale
US military halt valley training

THE US Air Force has announced it is suspending training operations at a shooting range in Eskdalemuir.

It follows a month of uproar in reaction to two applications for target practice sites that were submitted to Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Both sets of proposals – yet to be with issued with planning decisions – are seeking permission to establish long-range, high-velocity outdoor shooting galleries at Over Cassock Farm and Clerkhill, each just a few miles from the quintessentially quiet Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre.

Practice military operations have already been hosted at Clerkhill for American armed forces, who intend to regularly train-up troops in the area if approval is given.

Last week, Captain Kevyn Kaler, a spokeswoman for the US Air Force’s 352nd Special Operations Wing confirmed with Stars and Stripes magazine that the unit has used the site for “multiple events within the past seven months”.

She added the Air Force was “unaware of concerns from the local community” and “regret the disturbance that this has caused”.

Capt Kaler said all training events have now been suspended in Eskdalemuir as a result.

But the prospect of the peaceful valley becoming a hotbed of gunfire still remains and has been slammed by politicians, campaigners, local residents – and a 20,000 signature-strong petition urging the council to stop the ranges being established .

The petition has been backed by the community of 60 living at Samye Ling, including abbot Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, who in February complained there has been “more and more shooting” heard near the 53 year-old temple in recent years.

“Planning permission is not yet granted but shooting has already begun,” a post on the monastery’s website added. “As well as existing duck and pheasant shoots, which have grown in recent times, the valley’s residents have reported prolonged machine gunfire, said to be linked to US military training using high calibre weapons.

“If this is already happening without planning permission, what can be expected if it is ever granted?”

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