August 25, 2021

Wyden, Merkley Urge Defense Department to Hold Public Hearing in Malheur County, Expand Public Comment Period on Proposed Increase of Low-level Training Flights into Owyhee Canyonlands

Oregon senators tell Pentagon that proposed expansion of low-level Air Force training flights could affect wildlife habitat, indigenous cultural sites, recreation and ranching

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week asked the Department of Defense to provide a public hearing in Malheur County on U.S. Air Force plans to expand low-level training flights into the Owyhee Canyonlands as well an additional 30 days for public comment on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) so Oregonians have a full opportunity to voice concerns about the proposed flights from the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.

In their letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Wyden and Merkley noted there has been no public notice so far of the Air Force plans nor any public hearings in Oregon on the subject affecting the Owyhee Canyonlands, a significant and treasured Eastern Oregon landscape.  

“The Air Force’s draft EIS proposes alternatives that would dramatically lower altitudes for flights—including supersonic flights—over the Owyhee Canyonlands,” Wyden and Merkley wrote. “These pristine lands support wildlife habitat, including a large area of priority sage grouse habitat, as well as indigenous cultural sites, recreation visitors and traditional ranch operations. 

“While we support the U.S. military and recognize the importance of training capacity, pursuing this path of operation without giving the public the opportunity to participate in the process or raise questions and voice concerns about these plans is shortsighted,” the senators wrote. “We understand that the public comment period has already been extended to September 22, 2021, and request that you grant an additional 30 days so that Oregonians and others can be informed and participate.  We also request a public hearing in Malheur County.” 

A copy of this letter is here.