Note: in the print edition of this issue, this article appears as a sidebar to another news story, "Military in a dogfight for crowded skies."
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.
The Air 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 flights.
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.