NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmentalists Challenge Military Operations On Public Lands

October 4, 1999

Some armed forces personnel aren't getting the training they need because environmentalists -- and even civilian neighbors -- are putting pressure on military bases to limit training programs.

The military's need for larger spaces for training and testing of faster and more sophisticated equipment is clashing head-on with residential sprawl. During World War II, the Defense Department controlled 30 million acres of U.S. land -- but only 17 million acres today.

Here are some of the current controversies:

  • Environmentalists are lobbying to turn the Air Force's Barry M. Goldwater Range in Arizona -- where pilots undergo training -- into a national park, in order to protect the Sonoran pronghorn antelope.
  • Following a stray bomb incident that resulted in the death of a civilian resident on Puerto Rico's Vieques Island, local opposition has forced the Navy to suspend training operations there -- resulting in some ships' crews being sent to sea without gunnery training.
  • In Idaho, the Air Force recently settled a series of lawsuits by agreeing to limit supersonic flights over scenic wilderness canyons.
  • Plans to add 331,000 acres to the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., are on hold pending completion of an environmental assessment to determine how tanks and helicopters will affect, among other things, the desert tortoise.

Source: Andrea Stone, "Military Fights to Hold Its Ground," USA Today, October 4, 1999.


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