A letter is circulating from Mangala Shri Bhuti, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s sangha based in Colorado, asking for support in campaigning against the US Air Force’s proposed use of the airspace over its retreat center in the San Luis Valley, near Crestone. We share the letter here.
Dear Noble Sangha and Friends,
The Air Force is proposing to use the mountains of Crestone as practice grounds for the war in Afghanistan in a program called LATN (Low Altitude Technical Navigation). We are requesting each of you to send an email to the Air Force strongly urging them to not allow the LATN program to be allowed to fly in the San Luis Valley, home to our retreat center, Samten Ling. If allowed to proceed, they would fly low altitude (200 ft.) “sorties” (groups of big, loud military planes) per night, 5 hours in duration each, half of that at low altitude.
One of the 2 planes proposed, the C-120, is essentially a re-fueling plane. The other, the CV-22 Osprey, is an Air Force remake of a Marine Corps plane which has a significant crash record. The specifics of decibel levels are not currently available, but we know that the myriad aircrafts demonstrate negative impacts on wildlife. The first CV-22 deployed in Afghanistan crashed last April, killing 4 and injuring many more. “Extreme climate and rugged terrain” were cited as “presenting special challenges” for this plane, which is exactly the environment of Crestone. The Air Force spokesperson at the scoping meeting held in Alamosa on Oct 19th, Colonel Kirk Smith, acknowledged that the Air Force did not have the capacity to assist containing a fire that would result in the event of a crash. If the Air Force is successful in acquiring this 94,000 square miles of airspace (the entire San Luis Valley as well as NW New Mexico) as a military operations area (MOA), it will be in perpetuity (i.e. for as long as they want it). The Air Force has begun the process of environmental assessment (EA) and FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact). Here is a link to a website that details the LATN program in relation to the San Luis Valley.
The emails need to include what would be the significant impacts that would occur if this program is allowed to be implemented in Crestone. These can include spiritual practice, wilderness, quietude, enjoyment of the night sky, air quality, peace of mind, heart and body, health, economy, wildlife, agriculture, recreation. Here are some ideas for the main points, but the letters need to be individually composed:
1. Ask for an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS to be performed. This should be done rather than an EA (Environmental Assessment), which has much lower parameters.
2. Ask for an extended comments period, because many people who would be affected have not yet heard about it.
3. The level of noise could have extremely negative impacts on the economy here, which is based on spiritual retreats, [tourism, etc.]
4. We certainly want our pilots well-trained, but the bulk of this can be done by simulations.
5. In the not-so-unlikely event of a plane crash, the Air Force has stated that they would not be able to help fight any possible fires that could result.
6. Air pollution can come from many of the activities that they are planning– not just the act of their flying over the valley but also the pilots practicing mid-air fueling.
7. Wildlife would be negatively affected by the noise and the pollution. We have some unique ecosystems here that would be vulnerable. The Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR part 27.34 Aircraft) prohibits unauthorized operation of aircraft at altitudes resulting in harassment of wildlife, and the LATN proposal falls within these prohibited altitude levels.
Please address these emails to [email protected]. They need to hear from as many of us as possible, and we need to highlight for them as many issues as possible, because what we express has to be recorded, acknowledged and addressed in the EIS or EA. The deadline for comments is November 15th. The preferred method of communication would be email; however, communications can be made by phone (575-784-4131), fax (575-784-7412), or mail (Cannon AFB Public Affairs, 110 E Sextant, Suite 1150, Cannon AFB, NM 88103). We urge you to take the time to write in the next few days in order to protect our sacred land as well as those of other spiritual communities.
Yours in the Dharma,