Utah and Nevada ranchers who use Millard County rangeland fear a proposed U.S. Air Force Electronic Combat Test Capability Range will not only destroy the peace and quiet of their lifestyle but damage their cattle and sheep operations.
More than two dozen ranchers who hold grazing permits in the area proposed for the ECTC range and officials of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, Utah Wool Growers Association and Utah Cattlemen's Association met Thursday night with representatives of the U.S. Air Force and the Bureau of Land Management to discuss some of the features of the proposed range.Air Force officials said the range will cover an area 40 miles wide and 70 miles deep, mostly in Millard County, between Callao on the north and U.S.-6 and 50 on the south. The area is prime winter range for sheep and cattle and includes three valleys, Snake, Tule and Whirlwind.
Plans call for 100 threat sites to be built inside the range in 10,000-square-foot areas of compacted earth and cement where mobile radar missile tracking devices would be stationed.
Air Force pilots would use the area to learn how to attack enemy missile sites and avoid enemy aircraft. The planes would carry live ammunition and dummy Cruise missiles.
Planes would fly to the area from nearby air bases at no lower altitude than 5,000 feet, but would be as low as 100 feet when they near the threat sites.
Ranchers say the planes could bother their cattle and sheep and cause a decrease in production.
One rancher, Jerald Bates, Garrison, Millard County, said the increased air traffic and influx of vehicles and people into the test area will cause "our quality of life to deteriorate in our area of solitude."
Federal officials said an environmental impact statement is being drafted and when it is finished public hearings on the test facility will be held. They said the decision whether to build the range will be a joint one between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense.
A decision is expected this fall and if the range is approved, construction could start early next year and, by 2000, 100 threat sites would be constructed with roads to each site.
Air Force officials said five to 10 additional aircraft would fly into the test range area at the onset of its construction and, by 2000, up to 50 additional aircraft would be flying into the area, possibly from Air Force Bases in Utah, Nevada and California.
On the plus side, Air Force officials said, the test range would create 300 to 380 new highly technical jobs and other jobs, especially in construction.
Ranchers who attended the meeting said they are mulling over the possibilities of livestock damage claims or claims against the government for damage to private property.