Military overflights threaten the Gila Wilderness
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Holloman Air Force Base is requesting special use airspace for training F-16 pilots. One of the alternatives being considered is to expand its existing airspace into southwestern New Mexico, including the Gila National Forest and Gila and Aldo Leopold Wilderness areas.
The Air Force initiated the scoping process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the public comment period ended on September 25. However, no local elected officials, the public, or conservation groups in Grant County were notified of this proposal and no public meeting was scheduled for Silver City, despite the potential for negative impacts in the Gila region.
Tell the Air Force to extend the public comment period for scoping comments and to hold a public meeting in Silver City.
Alternative #2 as currently proposed includes up to 10,000 sorties annually over the Gila and southwestern New Mexico. Although the F-16's would observe flight restrictions to not fly below 2000 ft over Wilderness Areas, the proposal is to fly outside of designated Wilderness as low as 500 ft above ground level. The extreme noise from low elevation overflights can be frightening and disruptive to humans and wildlife.
Additionally, the proposal requests use of chaff and up to 30,000 flares annually for aircraft defense 2000 feet above ground level. These radar-disrupting systems introduce aluminum, plastic fibers, and magnesium into the environment, with potential impacts to water quality and wildlife and increased risk of wild fire.
The economy of Silver City and the surrounding areas is heavily dependent on people visiting the Gila from all over the world. The nation’s first wilderness area, and the largest in the state, attracts visitors who want to experience its quiet places, see its archeological sites, float its rivers, see its wolves, and hunt its elk. All of these activities require a quiet forest and would be disastrously impacted by 10,000 low-elevation military flights and 30,000 flares, which can devastatingly disrupt wildlife in addition to the activities of humans. This is especially troubling given the pervasive risk of forest fires.
Sign the petition TODAY asking the Air Force to extend the public comment period for NEPA scoping for its Special Use Airspace Optimization Project at Holloman AFB and to hold a public meeting in Silver City.
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