Saguache County Commissioners enumerate LATN concerns

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Letter to Cannon Air Force Base

The Saguache County Board of County Commissioners appreciates the opportunity to respond to the Dept. of Air Force, on the proposed Low Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) training area in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. We appreciate and join in the concerns expressed by US Senators Udall and Bennett, and US Congressman John Salazar, on behalf of the San Luis Valley, in southern Colorado. We respectfully submit these comments and concerns, and request that you address them in future iterations of this proposal.

Airspace operations and airspace management—Require careful interagency planning, taking local concerns into consideration. While the San Luis Valley might not be considered to have a large civilian population, many of our most populous communities lie near the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan ranges. Conflicts and cumulative impacts need to be addressed.

Noise, air quality and socio-economic impacts—Quietude and clean air, key assets for the pristine nature of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Baca National Wildlife Refuge, National Forest and wilderness areas, and communities in our county. Our local economy is built on the backbone of our agricultural community, and recreation and retreat tourists, all negatively impacted by flyovers in the foothills, and backcountry used for these purposes. In keeping with protecting public lands assets for the public enjoyment, we urge you to select training routes designed to avoid these use areas.

Safety (ground and air)—Local emergency services (medical, fire, search and rescue) are provided primarily by volunteer forces. Resources would be strained to respond to an emergency, such as a crash. The foothills that ring our county are at risk of wildfire, which could be catastrophic to communities in the foothills. Local emergency services should be consulted early in any planning for areas they serve.

Threatened and Endangered, and Special Status Species—Saguache County is home to the Gunnison Sage Grouse in the vicinities of Poncha Pass and along Cochetopa Pass to Gunnison. Saguache County has worked with Gunnison County on their Gunnison Sage Grouse Conservation Strategic Committee, and our own local working group, for over a decade to protect the Grouse. Routes that avoid critical habitat for these and other species of concern, and requirement of seasonal restrictions on the larger potential habitat areas would alleviate conflict between species protection and military training.

Cultural resources (Archaeological, Native American, and Traditional resources)—Penitente Park lies at the Southwest corner of our County. It is well known and visited for its remoteness and rich historical resources, and is one of the state’s premier sport climbing areas, in BLM’s Penitente Canyon Special Recreation Management Area. Significant multiagency efforts are directed at improving and protecting public use areas and the natural and archeological resources.

Saguache County’s Land Use resources are available to assist you in avoiding areas that are critical to our towns, agricultural community, recreation and retreat areas, and world-class public lands.


Linda Joseph, Mike Spearman, Sam Pace

Saguache County Board of Commissioners

November 2, 2010

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