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Environmentalists clash with Arlington National Cemetery

Monday - 3/18/2013, 2:39pm  ET

Nick Iannelli, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- Arlington National Cemetery will run out of burial space by the time 2025 rolls around if no remedial steps are enacted.

"We do need to get started on it quickly," warns Jennifer Lynch, with the historic cemetery.

The Millennium Project would allow for about 30,000 new burial sections in the northwest section of the cemetery.

It would mitigate one problem while, according to environmentalists, creating another: The project calls for chopping down hundreds of trees.

"Having that forest for all Americans to enjoy and appreciate shows sensitivity," says Joan Maloof, with the Old-Growth Forest Network.

"We should keep the cemetery as beautiful and ecologically productive as we can." With 27 to 30 burials each day, nobody is arguing something must be done to free up new space.

Opponents like Maloof are calling for the cemetery to head back to the drawing board.

"I like the idea of starting another national cemetery in another part of the country," says Maloof.

But that is unlikely to happen.

Cemetery officials have already requested money in the upcoming budget to begin the $84 million project.

The burial ground currently spans 624 acres with about 400,000 graves.

Lynch says construction will likely begin in the coming months.

"We are focused on the Arlington National Cemetery site."

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