Steve Stuebner's article on the Idaho Training Range (HCN, 1/24/94, p. 5), a proposed Air Force bombing range that will turn approximately 3 million acres of southwest Idaho into a virtual battle zone, accurately reflects the stakes for Idaho's environment. Environmentalists in other Western states ought to pay close attention to the Pentagon's bullying tactics in this case - you could be next on the list.
The Air Force has never made any attempt to justify the new bombing range on national security grounds. In fact, on a number of occasions, it has flatly stated that it can adequately train its pilots on existing training space. Further, despite long-standing demands that it do so, the Pentagon has yet to undertake a comprehensive assessment of its overall needs for military training in light of post-Cold War reductions in force. Nor has it attempted to determine whether its existing bombing ranges, which cover about 25 million acres in the United States, including enormous tracts in California, Utah, Nevada and other Western states, are adequate to meet overall needs.
Instead, the Air Force has used the threat of closing Mountain Home Air Force Base as economic blackmail to steamroll local opposition. That Gov. Cecil Andrus eagerly promotes the new range speaks volumes about the effectiveness of this tactic.