Military training scheduled for Magdalena Ranger District, NM
(DChieftain) – Training in the mountains near Magdalena, the Air Force and Marines sometimes ruffle the feathers of concerned local citizens. Now the training commands are asking for a special use permit that will cover all their training for an extended period of time.
The project is a joint proposal from the military entities and Forest Service.
“In the past they had to get a new permit every time,” said Cibola Ranger District NEPA coordinator Cheryl Prewitt. “So we are working on getting a permit that will cover the whole thing.”
An environmental assessment released July 21 provides the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed military training exercises on the four mountain districts of the Cibola National Forest, which covers the Mountainair, Magdalena and Sandia ranger districts.
Three Air Force and one Marine training units preform helicopter training, parachute operations and more in the areas, said Weston Solutions representative Tamera Carroll. Weston Solutions, a San Antonio, Texas, public relations firm, is contracted by the Air Force to speak on the matter.
The EA consists of 350 pages including proposed training details and maps. An electronic version is available on the Forest Service website at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=5375.
“What is going to happen is focused on a smaller area now and three new helicopter landing zones,” Prewitt said.
The new permit does not include a proposal for increasing the frequency of the exercises, said Kim Fornof, with Air Education Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.
“The Forest Service wanted to change some things to make sure we were doing a better job of managing the impacts on the forest,” she said. “They are using smaller groups.”
Different units go for the trainings at different times, Fornof said. Trainings are spread over a year’s period of time. Sometimes there might be training once a month, sometimes twice a year.
There are several different groups that do different types of training, she said. Trainings include land navigation, mountain rescue and tactics simulating field conditions.
The Marines are doing slightly different things, including small arms — simulated arms, of course, Fornof said.
Arian Pregenzer owns a home and 160 acres surrounded by the National Forest near the proposed permit area. She is concerned the permit includes an expansion of activities.
Pregenzer’s experience with the exercises has included helicopters flying so close to her house at night that it shakes and trash left behind on her property such as spent canisters and parachutes from rockets fired as navigation aids.
In addition, Pregenzer said she has been disturbed by noise from generators and nighttime exercises that involve pyrotechnics, including grenade simulators, that sound like a war zone.
Pregenzer said she just wants people to understand what is happening on National Forest land, which she believes should be “preserved for the benefit of all.”
Fornof said the EA specifically tries to offset operations in terms of one concerned citizen’s property line.
“Nothing is planned on private property,” Fornof said. “We don’t want to go anywhere near any people; the training is supposed to be out in the middle of nowhere.”
The comment period continues through Aug. 21. Copies of the EA are available at select area libraries as well as the Forest Service website. For more information call Dennis Aldridge at the Forest Service’s Magdalena Ranger District office, 575-854-2281, or Prewitt at 505-346-3820.