Attention Action Alert! Comments Needed for Air Force Training Proposal
The U.S. Air Force is intending to conduct low altitude aerial training missions over the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountain ranges of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. A Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) has been released for this Low Altitude Training Navigation (LATN) with just a few more community forums scheduled for public hearing. The SLV had only one forum on Oct. 3 in Alamosa, which is not even in the proposed fly-over area.
Deadline for Comments is Saturday, November 5, 2011 and we recommend focusing on the following three issues:
A full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be conducted instead of the abbreviated Environmental Assessment process (EA) process.
Why? Because it’s impacting 38 counties in two states and 60,700 square miles of civilian airspace.
The public comment period should be extended by 60 days until January 7, 2012.
A funding ban for this project should go into effect until a Record of Decision (ROD) is made that the public is not challenging in court.
Summary of the Air Force Proposal 688 missions are planned per year and some corridors will experience 1,400 flyovers due to return routes.
Up to three missions per night using two classes of turbo-prop warplanes are proposed.
Planes will depart at dusk from Cannon Air Base near Clovis, NM, for night flights averaging six hours, fly north through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico, cross over into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and then turn around back to base.
The latest special operations technologies will include robotics and drones to be used within the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains simulating the terrain as hostile territory/combat zones.
In-air refueling is also proposed along with simulated weapons, equipment and personnel drops. Avoidance techniques will be practiced which will include radar-jamming electromagnetic and chaff release.
The Air Force concludes in their Draft EA that this proposal will have “no significant impacts”. This is countered by their request that the public already using these lands for traditional purposes notify the Air Force in advance of any activities that would be affected by noise or electromagnetic disturbance. Such activities are listed as ceremonials, livestock branding, calving and mining operations. When notified, the Air Force will avoid these areas, acknowledging the disruption their activities will cause.
More in-depth analysis of this proposal can be found on the SLVEC web site.
Send comments through:
U.S. Postal Service
27 SOW Public Affairs, 110 E. Sextant Ave.,
Suite 1150, Cannon AFB, NM 88103
or FAX to: 575-784-7412.
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet
San Luis Valley Regional Representative
609 Main Street #110
Alamosa, CO 81101
San Luis Valley Regional Director
Senator Mark Udall
609 Main Street, Suite 205
Alamosa, CO 81101
SLV Regional Field Representative
Rep. Scott Tipton, CO-3
609 Main St., Box 11
Alamosa, CO 81101
Air Force reveals training map – So. Colo. to be bypassed in latest low-altitude flight plans
*San Luis Valley is still include in LATN area. Article is inaccurate, please refer to map
As promised, Air Force officials have redrawn the maps for their proposed low-altitude training flights over Colorado so that the flights would occur only in Western Colorado, leaving out the San Luis Valley, the Eastern Plains and the Army’s Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site near Trinidad.
The Air Force is scheduled to publicly release the maps next week, but provided copies to Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., on Wednesday, confirming what the military service had assured him earlier this summer — that low-altitude training would be moved west and away from Pinon Canyon.
“I applaud the Air Force for listening to the initial public input on this issue and adjusting the boundaries,” Tipton said in a statement Wednesday. “The Air Force has informed me they look forward to a robust 60-day public comment period on the draft environmental assessment and the proposed maps.”
The 16 public meetings the Air Force is planning in an effort to gather public input on the training plan should be less robust in Colorado with Pinon Canyon removed from the planned training area.
When the service announced last year that it wanted to conduct low-altitude training missions for special operations aircraft over Southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, it triggered widespread suspicion that the Air Force was trying to bring more Pentagon pressure on area ranchers to allow the expansion of the 238,000-acre Pinon Canyon training area.
The Army and the ranch community have battled over the future of Pinon Canyon since 2005.
Although the Air Force repeatedly has said its low-altitude training plan is not connected to the Army’s use of the Pinon Canyon range, Army critics have charged the Pentagon’s long-term plan for the training area is to conduct joint-service operations there.
In the draft environmental assessment, which will be released next week, the Air Force notes the change in their proposed training area as well is that it eliminates heavily populated areas and other controversial areas.
“The current proposed boundaries being considered, in comparison to the original, reflect a substantial reduction in size and population centers included,” the study says.
The Air Force flies V-22 Ospreys and other special-operations aircraft out of Cannon Air Force Base in eastern New Mexico. The plan calls for low-altitude training (as low as 200 feet) over the described areas in Colorado and New Mexico.
A sizable number of towns and counties across the region, however, are opposing the training plan, saying they don’t want the environmental impact of having low-altitude training missions flown overhead.
DRAFT EA Public Comment (Added 11/03/11)