Letter by the Big Sur Land Trust about the Navy Bombing Range Plan

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the preparation of an Environmental Assessment for the proposed Navy air to ground training area at Fort Hunter Liggett in central California.

As a former NAS Lemoore Navy light-attack pilot, I understand the merit of maintaining fit, well-trained and conflict-ready pilots. As a resident of central California, I recognize and value the unparalleled beauty and sensitivity of the natural environment in the Big Sur coastal area and the Ventana and Silver Peak Wilderness region in Monterey County . I urge you to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement for the Navy air-to-ground bombing proposal at Fort Hunter Liggett that is consistent with provisions specified in the National Environmental Policy Act. The bombing project will have significant environmental impacts that deserve NEPA-level study and review in the EIS process.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and staff of The Big Sur Land Trust, I would like to express my deep concern over the proposal to conduct low level training flights and air-to-ground target practice operations over the military lands at Fort Hunter Liggett and the adjacent public and private lands that will be affected by the Navy bombing plan Impacts to wildlife, sensitive resources and surrounding property must be considered. Specifically, I urge you to fully review and discuss the following issues in NEPA review documents:

1. Goal of the Program: Conserve $3,000,000 in fuel costs per year.

A. This estimated savings is minor compared to future, constant complaints and eventual lawsuits. The current ranges at China Lake and Fallon, NV are adequate and located in remote areas.

2. Impacts of the Proposed Bombing Program in the impact zone and along the aircraft flight path between Lemoore and the target zone in Stony Valley:

A. Wildlife:
1) Birds, including reintroduction programs for the bald eagle and California condor

2) Threatened and Endangered species

3) Other species of wildlife

B. Plants

C. Archaeological Resources

D. Parks and Wildlife Refuges

E. Air Quality

F. Noise

G. Wilderness Values

H. Tourism and Recreation

I. Roads: will closures occur during missions across Highway 1 and along Nacimiento Road through Stony Valley?

J. Real Estate Values

K. Marine Resources

L. Fire Hazards


Of particular concern are the cumulative impacts associated with the increase in low-altitude air traffic over the Ventana Wilderness, expanded military use of Fort Hunter Liggett, and aircraft carrier strike flights from within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. NEPA specifically prohibits a piecemeal approach to analyzing environmental impacts associated with projects that have the potential to expand in scope and level of impact.

My service with The Big Sur Land Trust involves working as a volunteer and Trustee to protect the significant scenic, biological and cultural resources of the Big Sur region. My service with the Navy includes combat and eight years as a Prisoner of War. I know well the price of freedom and it need not be at the needless expense of our nation's ecological and recreational treasures.


Phillip Butler

Secretary, Board of Directors
Big Sur Land Trust

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