Brother Erik's days at the Spiritual Life Institute in Crestone, Colo., rely on peace and quiet for contemplative meditation. "We base our life on silence and solitude," he says. He is not eager to share his days with one-person F-16 jets dogfighting 300 feet above the ground.
National Guard, which trains 26 percent of all U.S. Air Force
fighters, plans to allow its Colorado branch to increase training
missions over the Sangre de Cristo and Wet mountains to up to 5,000
sorties a year. That translates, Brother Erik fears, to incessant
screaming overhead. "This shows a total lack of respect for our
monastery," he says.
Yet for many locals, the
push for expansion of military flights is nothing new. Most opposed
the Air National Guard's first plan in 1992 to shift busy military
traffic out of Denver and into southwestern Colorado. That
opposition sent the agency back to the drawing board (HCN, 3/8/93).
This March, the guard released its latest proposal in a 300-page
draft environmental impact statement, proclaiming it a "win-win"
document. Although the new plan raises allowable flight levels from
100 to 300 feet, it still calls for increasing the amount of air
space for military use, as well as the number of
Dale Ahlquist, director of the watchdog
group, National Airspace Coalition, charges that the draft EIS
relies on "boilerplate language and generic responses' to public
concerns and is much the same as the earlier plan. The Air National
Guard will accept public comment on the statement until July 19; a
final plan goes to the Federal Aviation Administration, which will
make the final decision.
For more information
about the draft EIS for the Colorado Airspace Initiative, call the
National Airspace Coalition at 612/949-3301 or the Air National
Guard at 301/836-8143.