The U.S. Air Force has released a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for establishment of a Low Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) training area over much of northeastern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado. Philmont is included in the proposed training area (see map and inset below), and ranch management has been monitoring this proposal since it was first announced more than a year ago.
The proposed action is designed to provide realistic mountainous terrain for nighttime low-level training flights for the Air Force’s 27th Special Operations Wing based at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. The draft EA released by the Air Force in late August concludes that the proposed training area “would not result in significant impacts to the quality of the human or natural environment.”
The LATN training area would be used for an estimated three missions per flying day (688 per year) for MC-130J and CV-22 Osprey aircraft operating from Cannon. Air crews would depart Cannon at dusk, enter the training area, and continue on approximately five-hour missions at altitudes from 500 to 3,000 feet above ground level. Because of the desire for variety in mission parameters and terrain, the Air Force estimates that any given location in the training area would be overflown within 1,000 feet, on average, three times per month.
Under the Air Force’s plan, Special Use Land Management Areas (SULMAs) will be designated within the training area and will be afforded protection from overflights. According to the EA:
SULMAs are specific land uses, which are sensitive to even infrequent overflight. Overflight or altitude restrictions would be established for areas such as national parks, national monuments, recreational parks during periods of heavy use, and lakes during heavy recreation times. The training area would use public and agency input to identify and either permanently or seasonally avoid noise-sensitive SULMAs to the greatest extent practicable.
The Philmont Ranch Committee’s Program and Risk Management Task Force evaluated this Air Force proposal at its fall meeting in September. The task force noted that this proposal differs greatly from the Air Force plan in the late 1990s (which Philmont and the PSA opposed) to conduct low-level bomber flights directly over Philmont up to sixteen times daily. This proposal involves far fewer flights, slower and less noisy aircraft, and night flights only, and contains provisions for protection for special use areas like Philmont.
On recommendation of the task force, the Ranch Committee adopted a resolution supporting the Air Force training proposal with the following proviso:
“The Philmont Ranch Committee requests that as the Draft Environmental Assessment is finalized that Philmont Scout Ranch in Colfax County be designated as a Special Use Land Management Area (SULMA) and that during the summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day that Philmont Scout Ranch be treated as an avoidance area.
This recognizes that each day during the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day nearly 5000 Boy Scouts and their leaders from all fifty states are camping and backpacking over this wilderness area covering 137,500 acres.”
The PSA has also submitted a formal comment that supports the Ranch Committee position urging the Air Force to establish a SULMA that excludes flights over the ranch between Memorial Day and Labor day.
Ranch officials participated in public comment meetings in October to make this position known to Air Force officials. Ranch managers have also asked that flights be restricted in times of great drought and forest fire danger, such as that experienced by the ranch this year, and that any aerial refueling operations over Philmont be conducted at higher altitudes to alleviate any fire danger.
The public comment period ends in early November. The final decision and Environmental Assessment is expected as early as December.
For more information and access to a complete copy of the EA, visit the Cannon Air Force Base website at http://cannon.af.mil/
U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey photo by Tech. Sgt. DeNoris Mickle via Official U.S. Air Force at flickr.
I remember leaving the Ranch after my second summer on staff—and realizing that it would probably have been my last. As I drove through the gates that last time thinking back on a great second year as a Ranger—but knowing there were still some challenges at Philmont I still wanted to tackle. Realizing that the pressures of getting through college and having to raise money for college during summers was going to preclude another summer at Philmont. I know that today’s seasonal staff also face that bitter choice more often than we want to realize. But our seasonal staff scholarship program might ease some of this pressure.
This year we had 98 applicants for seasonal staff scholarships (a record number)—our budget was for $25,000. During the Fall PSA Board of Directors meeting we were able to come up with a combination of budget cuts, savings, and other compromises to find another $9,000. Bringing our 2011 scholarship total to $34,000. I am humbled to serve with your Board that was able to realign priorities to exceed the expectations of the seasonal staff. All of this is only possible because of the generosity of you—the members of the PSA. Your steadfast support of the people, place and programs that are Philmont is reflected in your support of the Annual Fund.
Thanks from me and the 2011 seasonal staff that benefits from your financial leadership.
President of The Philmont Staff Association
Learn more about the Annual Fund.
Donate via classic options or the 19.73 Club now.
I was just at a troop committee meeting—listening to many people complain about the lack of “follow through” of the volunteers that committed to do things. It brought to mind our days at Philmont—no matter where you worked at the ranch—you never doubted that things would be carried out. If a program was scheduled at a backcountry camp or at a PTC location—it happened. If someone needed something—we did whatever it took to make it happen.
That tradition carries on today. As you know—we count on the Annual Fund every year to keep our doors open every year. And every year, we raise the funds required to keep on supporting the People, Programs and Place that is Philmont. I am always awed by the generosity and dedication of our members to make sure they follow through and donate to the Annual Fund. For that I am very grateful—please take the time to make your donation now—we appreciate every gift—and it goes to continue the work the PSA does for Philmont—thanks!
I know the events of 9/11/2001 were tragic—but the spirit that pervaded America on 9/12 was one of teamwork. I felt that same spirit when I worked as part of the staff at Philmont—we were always ready to help out another staff member or lend an encouraging word when they were struggling through something. This summer I was on a trek with my son’s Troop—I saw that same spirit grab the crew as the “magic” of Philmont did its work. The crew pulled together to redistribute weight from some of the struggling hikers, pitch in and help do KP and make sure the bear bag was hung properly.
Well, right now the PSA is holding its Annual Fund drive—this is the fund that supports all our operations and pays our professional staff. We don’t live off an endowment, instead every year our members vote with their checkbooks (or credit/debit cards) on the survival of the organization. Early in the year about 40 members vote at least $1,000 each as members of the President’s Circle. Last year another 380 voted with a gift to the Annual Fund drive to support the PSA. So if we think in rough numbers–about one in six of our members gave to the Annual Fund in 2008. If we translate that into a trail crew or a staff camp—it wouldn’t be a great place to be. It would be great if we could all recapture that spirit we had while we served on staff and pitch in to make the Annual Fund goal of $88,000 by Halloween!
Remember that everyone’s contribution is important to making your PSA’s goal a reality this year. We have tried to make it easy to give—donate online—or the old standby—U.S. Mail works—PSA, 17 Deer Run Rd, Cimarron, NM 87714. Thanks for making a difference and giving it the old Philmont try!
For those of you who have already made a donation to the 2009 Annual Fund – THANKS! We appreciate your support!