Notebook: Unfriendly Skies
Scoop: The Military Wants More Wild Blue Yonder
Although the military has downsized, vast expanses of federal land and airspace across the West remain locked up for training exercises and maneuvers. Now the Air Force, Navy and Army are pushing ahead in eight states to enlarge bombing ranges, airspace and tank grounds. Proponents contend the additional area is needed for new and advanced weaponry and maintaining combat readiness. "With missiles going farther and planes faster, we need more space," insists Air Force Colonel FRED PEASE. But a coalition of environmental, recreation and peace groups says the reservations would create a giant supersonic battleground where low-flying aircraft and the flares and radar-jamming aluminum-silicon fibers they drop pose a threat to wildlife and motorists. "Have you ever had an F-16 scream over your head at 200 feet?" asks GRACE POTORTI, director of the Rural Alliance for Military Accountability, based in Reno, Nev., which is joining a lawsuit against the Defense Department. The most hotly disputed area: the remote Owyhee Canyonlands of Idaho, Oregon and Nevada, where efforts by the Air Force to expand bombing runs are at least temporarily on hold until the bighorn sheep lambing season ends.
--By Richard Woodbury/Denver