I would like to thank the many intelligent people of Grant County and Silver City who went to the USAF Flyover Meeting--on very short notice--and spoke their minds against the F-16 flyovers on March 9, 2018.
We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to Kyle Johnson of KURU, for taping the entire two and a half hours and for re-airing it--besides asking for and getting the agreement of the USAF representative managing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, Alan Shafer, that the entire audiotape be entered into the record as evidence in the on-going draft EIS statement preparation. We will be looking for that as evidence in draft EIS comments.
This meeting demonstrated the true power of grassroots democracy because the impact of these comments documented the real legal risks that the Air Force will be required to analyze before making their decision.
For example: consider the inherent damage to the "Wilderness Character" of the Gila--which is a legal mandate--the on-going risks to endangered species and wildlife habitat, and the costs of hearings and lawsuits connected to the unique biodiversity of the Gila Forest.
Combine that with potential, long-term economic damages to tourism in our "gateway community," and lawsuits from health risks to residents and tourists, extremely high risks of wildfires and wildfire damages to homeowners, landowners, businesses, and local governments—oh, and potential toxic and/or radioactive pollution from spent ordinance, and you have a convincing case--based on the required EIS criteria--of a "no-fly" decision.
Oh, and while we’re contemplating lawsuits against the USAF, let me note that although GRIP is not pursuing this in their F-16 strategy, the wilderness areas that are already included in the two existing MOAs are clearly being compromised. An F-16 flyover inherently comprises “Wilderness Character”—which is a legal mandate. Aldo Leopold is probably rolling over in his grave—and has been for some time. Let’s stop ALL USAF flyovers above Wilderness areas.
If they can’t understand reason, and if we can’t win in the 10th Circuit, then let’s apply the “judicial federalism” doctrine and look to the New Mexico Constitution and the NM State Supreme Court for some relief.
On behalf of the plants and animals in the Gila Regional Forest, I support their natural rights for a peaceful existence.
Bottom line: the USAF is risking extremely high-liability in some very expensive lawsuits—and highly visible hearings--if they plan to fly the Gila--and those who spoke out documented that by their comments. Raise 'em high for democratic action!
Patricia Eiline Kingsley, MA, MPA, MSTESOL, PhD
Silver City, NM