If you’ve ever hiked the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness or floated one of its Wild and Scenic rivers, you know the pleasure of gazing upon rugged desert vistas while seemingly wrapped in a cocoon of solitude. Birds of prey and pronghorn along with a stiff wind likely your only companions. There are just a few places in the lower 48 that provide this opportunity. But, a recent proposal by Mountain Home Air Force Base aims to change all that. 

The Air Force plans to allow supersonic flights of multiple aircraft skimming as low as several hundred feet above the ground. These flights would cause turbulence, sonic booms and other deafening noises throughout the Owyhee desert and canyons and beyond. More complete project information can be found on the Mountain Home AFB Airspace website.

MHAFB has long been an integral part of our community while supporting a critical base of operations and training for the Air Force. We support our military personnel and understand the need for realistic training opportunities. The proposal, though, raises grave concerns, including: 

  • Noise pollution in wilderness areas, marring wilderness values and tainting recreation.
  • Harming bighorn sheep and Greater sage-grouse, sensitive species adversely affected by abrupt, loud, or prolonged disturbances.
  • Potential harmful effects on rural communities.

This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness designation and the success of the Owyhee Initiative, a coalition including ranchers, conservationists, sportsmen, local elected officials and agencies, including the Air Force. These much contested and hard-earned agreements now form the basis of collaborative efforts throughout the West. 

In previous negotiations, the Air Force, ranchers and conservationists agreed that flights will stay within certain limits, such as above 5,000 feet in the spring during bighorn sheep birthing season and 10,000 feet for supersonic flights over canyons. The Air Force is now backtracking. 

The Idaho Conservation League is deeply concerned about the negative effects the Air Force proposal could have on our agricultural community, wilderness values, recreation experiences, and the plants and animals in the Owyhee canyons and desert. We all need your help defending our communities and wildlands from potentially harmful low level, supersonic flights.

The Air Force has scheduled three meetings to inform the public and solicit comments on the proposal:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, 5 – 8 p.m., The Riverside Hotel, 2900 W. Chinden Blvd, Boise, ID 83714.
  • Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, 5 – 8 p.m., Grand View Elementary School, 205 1st Street, Grand View, ID 83624.
  • Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, 5 – 8 p.m., Mountain Home Junior High School, 1600 E. 6th S. Street, Mountain Home, ID 83647.

Also, tell Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners your concerns about potential impacts to bighorn sheep at their public hearing 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019at their Southeast Regional Office in Pocatello, 1345 Barton Road.

Public comments to the Air Force are due Nov. 25, 2019, and can be submitted at their three meetings, on the project website, or in writing to Mountain Home AFB Airspace EIS, c/o Leidos, 1740 East Fairview Ave., PMB 20, Meridian, ID 83642.