Even as the environmental agenda was frustrated in Congress, activists at the state and
local level were celebrating some hard-won victories. In the West, for example, Sierra
Club activists have derailed -- for now -- a U.S. Air Force plan to create a bombing range
in the Owyhee Canyonlands of Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.
In late September, under pressure from the Clinton administration, the Air Force
canceled an expected Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for the bombing range. Just
days later, a federal magistrate ruled in response to a Sierra Club lawsuit that no
adequate EIS for the bombing range had in fact ever been filed by the Air Force.
"You could hear the hammer on the coffin nails from here," said Rick
Johnson, Regional Representative in the Sierra Club's Northwest Office. "This
victory is testimony to the persistence and dedication of Sierra Club volunteers
throughout Idaho and the great boost that came from activists across the country."
Activists aren't sitting around savoring their achievement, however. The Air Force is
expected to prepare a new environmental impact statement that will contain options for
alternative sites for the bombing range. Furthermore, the November election has changed
the political climate surrounding the Air Force plan.
"Our work isn't over until we defuse the next EIS and secure permanent
protection for the Owyhee lands," said Johnson.
The Sierra Club hopes to achieve permanent protection of the Owyhee Canyonlands through
the designation of a national conservation area. Grassroots opposition to the proposed
bombing range is so strong and so well-publicized that the plan has become the most
highly-covered local environmental issue by Idaho's media in recent years.
The bombing range was the brainchild of outgoing Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus. Andrus, who
played a pivotal role in the removal of Jim Baca from the post of director of the Bureau
of Land Management, relentlessly lobbied the White House for approval of his plan.
But citizens in Western states were outraged that the Clinton administration was even
considering approving the plan, which would have established the Idaho Training Range for
bombing practice and supersonic jet maneuvers on more than 25,000 acres of isolated
high-desert lands. New Idaho Gov. Phil Batt has supported Andrus' bombing range proposal
since its inception, said Idaho activist Brian Goller.
"However, Batt's ability to push this issue is much weaker than Andrus',"
he added. "Grassroots opposition has set this process way back. We defined the
issues on our terms and we prevailed."
For more information: Contact Rick Johnson, regional representative,
Sierra Club Northwest field office, 1516 Melrose Ave., Seattle, WA 98122; phone (206)
SOURCE: AMY WILSON, THE PLANET, DEC/JAN '95
Up to Top