Reader asks that community speaks up on changes proposed by Air Force

To whom it may concern,

The USA was founded on three inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The American military has proven itself through the history of this country to protect those rights for America. Our fathers were both veterans – one in WWII and one in Korea. We are proud supporters of our military including the Air Force.

Training is a critical part of mission readiness. We knew when we purchased our place eight years ago that there was a MOA over our ranch so we expected and had occasional training flights. However, while the Air Force is a key part of the protection of those three rights for the country, unfortunately for us personally, current training operations and more specifically the proposed changes represent the most significant threat we have to our environment and our personal inalienable rights.

The current use of flares at the current altitude has been devastating for our area. We understand that these fl ares are designed to burn out in a few seconds, however this is not always the case. Even when the flare does go out as designed, a hot flare reaching the ground is sufficient to ignite dry grasses from the frequent recent droughts. In just the past few years, these flares have caused the Government Springs Fire, the Mescal Fire, the Telegraph Fire and another small fire in El Capitan East that was quickly put out by a tanker before it got out of control. While prescribed burning is beneficial for the land, having hundreds of thousands of acres burn out all at the same time is devastating for the environment, wildlife, and human residents alike. In just the Telegraph Fire, twelve of our neighbors lost their primary homes and hundreds if not thousands of animals were cremated in addition to the destruction of their habitat. Restoration of their habitat will not happen in our lifetime.

The proposed reduction of flight clearance from 8,000 feet to 500 feet is disruptive to the animals and humans living in this area. Frequently the current training sorties violate the approved 8,000-foot requirement (we know this because we can see the skin color of the pilot) and this causes a stampede of cattle and other wildlife. When animals stampede, they will tear through fencing causing great damage to infrastructure, injury to the animal, and generally stressing the animals. Having late night operations is also very stressful for the animals including ranchers who are typically in bed by this time. Animals under stress will not graze properly and reproduction is affected.

Adding to the noise and fire, the proposed chaff, which may be non-toxic by itself, but when inhaled would cause respiratory issues for humans and animals alike. We purchased a rural location to be out of the pollution of the city.

Current supersonic policy causes damage to windows each time we are subjected to this noise. Lowering that limit to 5,000 feet is unimaginable given the damage we currently see and the stress to the animals from these booms. Our livelihood in ranching is dependent on healthy relaxed animals.

In summary, the adverse environmental impacts from the proposed alternatives are:

- Destruction of habitat and animals from use of flares due to fire and subsequent floods caused by the vegetation destroyed in the fire. Just this summer, our ranch had 22 flows of water that were greater than 6 feet in depth including one at 14 feet. Before the fire our washes were 4 feet deep and 6 feet wide.

- Stress to wildlife and domestic cattle caused by low flights, flares, chaff and sonic booms. Stress results in low weight gains and reduced reproduction.

- Property damage caused by use of flares, low flights and sonic booms.

- Stampedes started by low flying planes and sonic booms causing injury to the animals and destruction of fences.

- Health damage from the inhalation of chaff

In summary the proposed changes are commensurate with taking private property without compensation. Something that is specifically prohibited by the American constitution. These changes are detrimental to the environment, detrimental to our way of life and detrimental to the local economy. There must be sufficient uninhabited space for these critical training missions. Please reconsider these proposed changes to preserve the environment as well as our rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.


Jim and Carol Ptak