Published by the Colorado Daily 12/93
AS THE MILLENNIUM TURNS by Evan Ravitz
The Air Force wants nearly one quarter of Colorado for treetop-level
combat training. They are using our "neighbors",
the Colorado Air National Guard, as front men to claim most of
the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (in direct violation of their new
wilderness status), the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, the
San Luis Valley, the Wet Mountain Valley and the Green Horn Mountains.
This year the Colorado Guard's jet force has been reduced 40%. The Guard has been called to active duty only once in their 47-year history. They may be phased out completely by 1997. Yet they say they need these new MTRs (Military Training Routes) and MOAs (Military Operations Areas). It's the Air Force which will inherit this earth, and they are not subject to the Guard's local regulations. They can also invite foreign air forces.
The military has lied and cheated to try to steal this airspace, using our tax money. What they say at public meeting and in press releases contradicts their 77-page DOPAA (Description of proposed Action and Alternatives). For example:
They say they won't fly under 500 feet altitude. The DOPAA says "Realistic training scenarios should allow virtually unrestricted flight throughout an altitude structure from cruising altitude to the lower altitude (surface) of the training routes" (page 23). A 100-foot altitude is mentioned at least twice.
They say the "chaff" (fiberglass and aluminum confetti used to confuse enemy radar) they want to drop "biodegrades into natural elements found in soil." Yet an independent lab reports it "would not be degraded through biological action." Glass and aluminum can't be digested, and aluminum occurs in metallic form in no soils.
Charles Proctor, an anthropologist living near Westcliffe, just over the Sangres from the Dunes, characterizes the DOPAA as childish and full of jargon and confusing statistics. The Environmental Impact Statement which the locals forced the military to produce contains gems like "Noise does not damage the environment." In that case, they should practice over Washington, DC.
Charles says the Guard has buzzed the school in nearby Gardner and dropped burning flares on private property. The flights have been conducted for decades; over 50% of U.S. airspace is already controlled by the Air Force and Guard. A friend of mine's Dad had his glider's landing wheel sliced off in mid-air by an F-16, and luckily survived. Pack trains in the Sangres have been stampeded (and horses in hobbles crippled).
About half of Westcliffe turned out for a Guard "Scoping hearing" (is this where they target their enemies?), and testified till 2AM: every single one against DOPAA. The people of Penrose, La Veta and Walsenburg are also up in arms. These are small rural towns who need our help. If you want to enjoy this spectacular land without being "practice bombed", flared, chaffed, etc. every half-hour, 6 days a week, please:
Call Jim Peck, who Governor Romer has put in charge of fighting DOPAA at 866-2155. The Gov is commander-in-chief around here and needs courage. He says give the airspace back to the FAA, on the basis of wilderness and citizen concerns.
Call Congressfolk Pat Schroeder (866-1230) and David Skaggs (650-7886) and ask why they aren't fighting for our wilderness and recreational areas. Only Congressman Scott McInnis (from that area) has come out against DOPAA. (202)226-0622
Contact the Custer County Action Association at (719)783-2061 or PO Box 552, Westcliffe CO 81252. They are assembling a petition to send to Clinton. For $5 you can get a complete information kit and have a letter sent to Clinton in your name.
Harass Brigadier General Mason C. Whitney at the Buckley Air National Guard Base (famous for sexual harassment) at 340-9555. Tell him to cool his jets, and send them to Pinon Canyon, already used for war games.
And if you're in the area, have a gun, and are flown-over, you could always fire a warning shot. Fight fire with fire. As we learned by repeatedly torching the gate that two years ago blocked cyclists from using the dirt trail to avoid riding the highway in Boulder Canyon, direct action works better than going to meetings. Government needs to learn: The customer is always right.
Evan is the founder of the Voting by Phone Foundation, instigator of the 13th Street Bike Path downtown and the Free Speech tables now allowed on the Mall, and the not-so-tight-ropewalker there.