Court applies brakes to bombing range plans
Environmentalists oppose the planned bombing range because of the threats multiple sonic booms, thousands of flares and other military paraphernalia pose to the region's solitude, rugged character and wide open country
April 19, 1999
Web posted at: 4:00 PM EST
The U.S. Air Force will limit its plans to develop a bombing range in Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands this spring and summer while a court weighs two lawsuits brought by a coalition of environmentalists.
While a senator from Idaho, Dirk Kempthorne, now governor of that state, inserted language into the fiscal year 1999 Defense Authorization bill to convert 12,000 acres of the desert canyon complex into a $30 million, sophisticated bombing range.
Environmentalists oppose the planned bombing range because of the threats multiple sonic booms, thousands of flares and other military paraphernalia pose to the region's solitude, rugged character and wide open country.
The Wilderness Society, Idaho Rivers United, Committee for Idaho's High Desert and other groups sued the Air Force over the inadequacy of its environmental studies of the impact of the proposed bombing range and filed for a preliminary injunction to block military construction activities last month.
Under the court-enforceable agreement issued April 10, the Air Force is prohibited from bulldozing roads and developing radar sites on public lands and from conducting supersonic combat exercises over the Little Jacks Creek wilderness study area.
"This is a major step in the effort to require the Air Force to comply with federal laws," said Laird Lucas, an attorney with the Land and Water Fund who represents the coalition.
"We believe the Air Force recognizes it would have lost if it had tried to challenge our preliminary injunction request and so was willing to negotiate a deal with us."
The environmentalists are particularly happy that the Air Force will not begin military training over the Little Jacks Creek wilderness study area.
Under the agreement, the federal district court will decide two lawsuits over the Air Force bombing range by the end of this summer.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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