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The Planet

October 1997, Volume 4, number 8

Owyhee Targeted

A one-two punch aimed at the Owyhee Canyonlands in Idaho is being fought by the state's Middle Snake Group.

The first jab is a U.S. Air Force proposal to expand the training territory for bomber and fighter pilots at the Mountain Home Air Force base in southwestern Idaho. Low-flying jets that cause sonic booms would conduct maneuvers in 3 million acres of air space and use the canyonlands as a target area for dummy bombs, metal chaff and flares. Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall is expected to decide on the environmental impact statement for the military plan in mid-November.

Paving the way for the Air Force plan is the other punch: a Bureau of Land Management report to decide if 12,000 acres of the Owyhee Canyonlands should be withdrawn from public use to make way for the bombing range plan. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt will evaluate the land withdrawal, and if he approves of it, the departments of Defense and Interior will submit a joint official proposal for a vote in Congress.

"The noise from the 3-million-acre battlefield in the sky would devastate populations of bighorn sheep and sage grouse, not to mention the impacts it would have on recreational opportunities in Idaho's canyonlands," said Roger Singer, Snake River Group organizer. As part of its EPEC campaign, the group recently used radio ads to take aim at the proposal. The ads were complemented by door-to-door canvassing in Boise and a postcard campaign that sparked 2,000 responses. The effort garnered TV coverage and a live interview on a local conservative talk radio station.

To take action: Ask Secretary Bruce Babbitt to reject the USAF's Enhanced Training project in the BLM's Land Report. Tell him the 12,000-acre bombing range and the noise impacts of the 3-million-acre battlefield in the sky would devastate wildlife populations and recreational opportunities.

Write: Secretary Bruce Babbitt, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1849 C St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.

For more information: Contact Roger Singer at the Middle Snake Group's office, (208) 384-1023;

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