The Holloman Air Force Base proposal to establish a new military training area over the Gila region has galvanized strong community opposition over the past year. Our elected officials are listening and have followed the public’s lead with their expressions of opposition. But continued public pressure will be a crucial element in ensuring that the Air Force ultimately drops this harmful idea.
Holloman Proposal Threatens the Health of the Gila
As it plans to expand Special Use Airspace at Holloman, the Air Force is considering creation of a new Military Operations Area for F-16 fighter jets over southwestern New Mexico. Potentially, 10,000 sorties a year — 30 a day — would fly over the Gila, with a thousand of those flights supersonic and a thousand at night. Many of the fighter jets will be flying very fast at very low altitudes. Others will drop flares and a radar-deflecting metal material called chaff from above 2,000 feet.
The proposal puts the health of the Gila National Forest, Gila and Aldo Wilderness Areas, and of nearby communities like Silver City at risk from extreme noise, wildfire, and environmental contamination. Our rural economy, trying to wean itself off the boom and bust cycle of extractive industries, has relied on our natural amenities to attract tourism, outdoor recreation and retirees. This economic development strategy is severely threatened by Holloman’s proposal.
The Gila is an inappropriate location for the Air Force’s military training. Other locations and existing military installations are available to Holloman that won’t cause impacts to the nation’s first Wilderness area and fragile local economies.
Opposition to the Holloman Proposal
The public was outraged upon the chance discovery in October 2017 that the Air Force did not hold a scoping meeting in Grant County, the area that would be most affected by the new “Lobo MOA”. Our local and state elected officials complained to the Air Force about this unfair lack of public participation and Holloman was forced to meet with the community. Hundreds of people rallied and participated in two public meetings held by the Air Force in Silver City in November 2017 and in March 2018. More than 3,000 people signed a petition and/or submitted scoping comments opposing military training over the Gila, and more than 150 local businesses signed a letter expressing opposition to the proposal.
Elected officials are paying close attention to the strong community opposition to Holloman’s proposal. The Grant County Commission, Town of Silver City, State Senator Howie Morales and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich have all made powerful statements against use of the Gila for F-16 training.
Citing a long list of concerns associated with the F-16 training proposal, the Grant County Commission passed a resolution stating that “unless the Air Force determines that no other alternative can fulfill this training mission, the Grant County Commission respectfully requests that the Air Force use the other proposed and existing areas for Holloman’s F-16 training.”
The Silver City Town Council unanimously approved a letter to the Air Force requesting that it choose NOT to establish a Military Operations Area over Grant County, the Gila National Forest and Gila Wilderness.
Senator Heinrich’s op-ed for the Silver City Daily Press calls on the Air Force to not expand airspace over the Gila and surrounding areas: “[e]specially when there are other more appropriate overflight options, it makes no sense to threaten what makes the Gila so special and unnecessarily create hostility between the public and the military in New Mexico.”
Continued Public Opposition is Critical to Defeating the Holloman Proposal
Your continued support is vital to our campaign to eliminate the Lobo MOA from consideration by the Air Force. The Gila Conservation Coalition and its partners, along with community volunteers, are preparing for review of the draft Environmental Impact Statement expected to be released in late spring/early summer 2019. We’ll help facilitate participation in meetings and submission of public comments, so stay tuned for our calls to action.
As always, your financial contributions will help in this effort. Thank you for your continued support!