Guard Wants Low-Level Range In New England

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Opposition is mounting to a Massachusetts Air National Guard plan to conduct low-level (500 feet minimum) training over a 3,600-square-nautical-mile area of northwestern Maine and a sliver of eastern New Hampshire known as the Western Mountains. The sparsely populated resort area is already a military range, but only a small section is used for low-level flights. According to The Original Irregular (the real name of the newspaper in Kingsfield, Maine) the Guard claims buzzing the treetops in F-16s and F-15s shouldn’t really bother anyone. “The Proposed Action would have the potential to affect airspace management, biological resources, and safety, but would have no significant impacts on these resources,” the paper quotes the Guard’s draft environmental assessment as saying. Others aren’t so sure and are worried about wildlife, air quality and the undeniable impact of a fighter suddenly screaming overhead. AOPA is also involved, asking for, and getting, more time to study the impact on airspace. The comment period on the environmental assessment was to have ended, but AOPA has asked the Guard to extend that by 30 days so it and others can properly assess the plan. The Guard agreed and the new comment deadline is May 14. Meanwhile, a grassroots movement is afoot in the hills of Maine. Rather than try to scoop each other with this story, little newspapers like The Original Irregular are alerting each other about it in an effort to spread the word.