Does the U.S. government still shoot missiles into the Pacific? Does this negatively affect the environment?



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    Yes, the US government still regularly tests missiles in the Pacific Ocean, mainly at the (aptly-named) Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Site which is located on the island of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. There are also testing facilities at various other places including Wake Island, Alaska, Hawaii and California. There are environmental impacts from any types of weapons testing. Debris and emissions from the missiles can negatively impact marine and land-based ecosystems, depending on where they land and what type they are. Electromagnetic radiation from tracking radar can also be an issue. Habitat for animals, particularly marine birds, can be severely disrupted by weapons testing, and not just missiles either: for years the U.S. Navy used the tiny uninhabited Pacific island of Farallon de Medinilla as a target bombing range. In 2002 this practice was stopped after a court found that the bombing exercises disrupted birds in violation of an international treaty protecting migratory birds. The missile ranges have their defenders, however; most of these facilities are located on islands that are very poor and have very few economic resources. The people who live there depend on the jobs and economic stimulus created by the testing facilities.

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