US Air Force OK with destroying the Gila Wilderness

Gila Wilderness 1922



“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”  Wilderness Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–577)

The Gila Wilderness was designated the world’s first wilderness area on June 3, 1924.  If the US Air Force has its way, it’ll become a burning trash dump.

A Holloman Air Force Base proposal would create a new military operations area (MOA) over the Gila and Aldo Leopold wilderness areas of the Gila National Forest (and over into Arizona, too). The Air Force wants up to ten thousand F-16 flights per year (that’s more than one an hour 24/7), dropping  flares and chaff as they fly over.

The Air Force didn’t think to bother notifying the public* where the MOA is proposed (Grant and Catron County in New Mexico) about this idea.  Instead the Air Force held meetings in other municipalities nowhere near the directly affected area.

Pretty sneaky, if you ask me.

So what will happen if the MOA goes through?

You mean the screaming of jet planes constantly zooming over what’s supposed to be wilderness (“in natural condition” 11 U.S.C. § 1131(a)) isn’t enough?  Well, there’s more.  Such as the trashing of the forest.  Literally.  The Air Force wants to drop chaff and set off flares (military aircraft often combine chaff with flare dispensers), carpeting the forest with military debris and maybe just burning the place down.  How much chaff and flares I don’t know… maybe that is in the Air Force’s environmental impact statement (EIS).  But with up to 10,000 flights a year I’m thinking we’re talking tons.

Chaff

Chaff is meant to confuse radar.  It’s made of millions of tiny aluminum or zinc coated fibers that are ejected from a jet and then are blown around by the turbulence of the jet’s wake and from whatever wind there is that day.  It can end up far from the release point.

Chaff fibers are about the thickness of a human hair and range in length from about a third of an inch to around three inches long.  The fibers are dispensed in cartridges or projectiles, so it’s not only chaff, but the debris from the containers (paper, cardboard, styrene caps, pistons, and other stuff) that ends up on the ground.

Once the chaff and debris is on the ground, it can be blown around by wind and updrafts from wildfire.  While inhalation is not considered to be a major issue (by people who don’t have to breathe it), wild animals will inevitably consume the chaff because it will be everywhere.  It will blanket the forest floor, the plants, and the animals themselves (not to mention hikers, bikers, hunters, and campers) with metal coated glass fibers.  And let’s not forget that these fibers and associated debris will also pollute the streams… water that ultimately will end up in Phoenix, AZ.  But hey, they have water filters over there, don’t they?

There have been few to no peer-reviewed studies examining the impact of chaff on wildlife and the environment, or humans either, for that matter.  Little is known about the breakdown of chaff in soil or in water.  It doesn’t take a study to know this:  given what chaff is made of, it’s not going to go away soon.

But hey, the Air Force is pretty sure that the stuff won’t hurt anything.

Flares being deployed from a F-16

Flares being deployed from a F-16

Flares are used to confuse heat-seeking missiles. Most are magnesium pellets ejected from tubes to ignite in the air behind the aircraft. The flares burn at temperatures above 2,000° F.   As hot as magma ejected from a volcano.

The flare pellets burn as they fall to the ground.  To the dry trees and brush below.  The place where there are no roads because it’s wilderness, so fire fighters can’t even get there unless they hike in.

If the flares don’t burn the forest down when they land, at minimum what their deployment will do is add to the feeling that there’s a war’s going on.  Jets screaming overhead.  Explosions blasting day and night.  Blinding lights destroying dark skies.

Bye by peace and quiet.  Farewell tranquility.  Too bad, wilderness.

Wildfire burning in the Gila National Forest

The future of the Gila Wilderness?

What could  they possibly be thinking?

I’m guessing the Air Force is thinking only about the Air Force.  They’re relying on people being so fearful about war that sacrificing the world’s oldest wilderness so fighter pilots have another place to train is an acceptable price.

I don’t know what they’re really thinking, but I do know that the decisions will be made by people who don’t value wild places.

Just think:  the Gila National Forest is where the endangered Mexican wolf is supposed to survive.  Where are the studies on the impacts on the wolves?  And what about the endangered spotted owl.?  And all the other threatened and endangered species in the Gila?   Let’s not forget the impact on the Cosmic Campground (the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary on National Forest System lands and also in North America, located between the Gila Wilderness and the Blue Range Primitive Area).  Has anyone bothered checking into potential damage to the Gila Cliff Dwellings from the vibrations of hourly (or more frequent) low flying jets and/or flare explosions?

No matter who you are, rancher, environmentalist, Continental Divide Trail hiker or biker, hunter, wildlife photographer, or just someone who likes to walk in the woods, it seems to me you’d be as outraged by this Air Force proposal as I am.

While I am not an advocate of petitions, for those who are unwilling or unable to take personal action there is a petition sponsored by the Gila Conservation Coalition at https://www.change.org/p/holloman-air-force-base-military-overflights-threaten-the-gila-wilderness

Better yet, write your legislators.  Write to the Air Force.  Call them.  Email them.  Make a noise in this world.
Holloman AFB Public Affairs Office
Mr. Tommy Fuller
(575) 572-1831 ext. 5406
tommy.fuller@us.af.mil

* Edited due to information received from Catron County Commissioner Anita Hand (District 1) and further research:  The Catron County Commission received a letter about the EIS too late to act on before the scoping period had closed (the Notice of Intent was published August 25, 2017; there should have been a 45 day comment period but the comment deadline was September 15, 2017).  Holloman airspace analyst Alan Shafer has stated that Holloman also sent letters to both Grant County Commission Chair Brett Kasten and County Manager Charlene Webb but Kasten said that he had no recollection of receiving any letter.  Grant County Commission did hold a special meeting to address the issue. but this was after the comment deadline  The only public scoping meetings were held by the Air Force in Carlsbad, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces.  No scoping meetings were held in Grant or Catron County. [return to top]

Note also that the draft EIS is not available on the Holloman AFB EIS website.  If it exists somewhere, this writer sure can’t find it.  

Further reading:  Gila National Forest weighs in on Air Force’s airspace proposal

Potato Soup

Blessed moisture (c) 2018 Lif Strand

Not potato soup ingredients

Yesterday it rained for the first time in I don’t know how long.  Oh, I could readily find out — I do keep a weather journal.  It didn’t rain much the last time.  As of yesterday morning I had recorded under half an inch since the first of the year and as of last evening I had just 0.2″ more to add.

Last night it snowed.  I woke up to two inches of wet white stuff.  I have to be happy for that, because we so desperately need the moisture.  But I had to cancel a trip into town.  I wanted to pick up a load of alfalfa hay, and get some cat food.  I’m out of bananas, and getting low on peanut butter.  And [gasp!] I’m out of wine.  But more importantly, I had to cancel the appointment for a massage.

Tragedy!

Okay, it’s not a great tragedy but it is a bit of a disappointment.  I’m not in dire need of the massage and I won’t get to hang out in the coffee shop this afternoon with a book, a cup of coffee, and a pastry.   The massage has been rescheduled and the coffee shop will be there next week, so it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just one of those things when you go rural.

Living out here in the middle of nowhere means knowing that there could be days or weeks when going anywhere is not possible.  It means thinking in advance, replenishing supplies before running out, and making do.  If a person isn’t into the mentality of  preparedness and self-sufficiency then this is not the kind of place to live.

In my case, today is more like a schoolkid’s snow day than anything else.  I get to stay home.  Yay!  (That’s the hermit in me talking).  And of course, I have what I need here to make the day even better.  None of the things on my shopping list are things I’m in danger of running out of unless I couldn’t drive out for a good long time.

Except for the wine.  A wine cellar’s on my To Do list, but I’m not there yet.  I rarely have back-up wine.  I’ll tough it out.

It’s a cold, dreary day, today.  The snow has stopped and the melt has begun.  It’ll be a snotty mess out there in a while.  A good excuse to stay inside and snuggle up near the wood stove with a book.  And maybe some comfort food.  I’m thinking potato soup.

Look Ma!  No recipe!

Making do happens when you can’t follow a recipe.  Maybe you don’t have the ingredients, or the time, or that recipe just doesn’t appeal.  In my case it seems to mean being constitutionally incapable of following directions.  Oh, not because I couldn’t if I wanted to, but because it just seems so… um…

Let’s just say that some of us make our own excitement in life.

I’ve always been attracted to stories of people pushing the envelope of their very existence.  Doesn’t matter where or when.  It could be anybody, at any time, on whatever ocean or continent… or planet or galaxy.  Shipwrecked folks, lost folks, explorers, pioneers — people who went where no others had gone before and who made do with what they had and what they could invent.

It takes a special kind of person to do that.  I’ve always wanted to be a member of their ranks.  But you know, I’ve got that hermit thing going, so that has put a crimp on what I might do.  The thought of being stuck on an island or in a spaceship with a bunch of people who are in my face all the time is just too ewwww.  Plus I’d get claustrophobic without wild, open spaces to roam.

So hey — I could be a mountain man, like Grizzly Adams as portrayed by Dan Haggerty (I met him years back, seemed like a nice guy).  Except I don’t live in the mountains and I’m a woman, and no training bears for me, thank you very much.  Anyway those are just details.  The point is a life of doing whatever I can for myself by myself.  Not living by the book.  Not just marching to a different drummer — but to my own drummer: me.  Even if I can’t drum.

It’s a life of choosing to take a different road, maybe one that requires giving certain things up in order to have other things that are more important.  From the outside it might look a lot like living a hard life for no reason, but from the inside what it feels like is playing.

Yes, playing.  By that I mean, having fun doing something I’ve chosen to do the way I want to do it and enjoying what I’m doing just because I can.

So about that soup

Even if I had an excellent potato soup recipe I wouldn’t follow it.  (I do have an excellent book of soup recipes entitled Soup, by Coralie Castle; 101 Productions; distributed by Scribner, New York 1971.  It is out in a second edition published in 1996, too.)  I don’t need to look in the book to know I probably don’t have all the ingredients, or if I do, I won’t want to use the ingredients called for.  More importantly, seems to me that recipes are guidelines to someone else’s idea of what food should taste like.  It’s like making a quilt using the exact fabrics and pattern that someone else has created, or painting-by-numbers.

Not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing those things, just that it’s not for me.

You know the supposedly ancient Chinese saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish?  Well, teach me not only how to fish, but how to light a fire, and how to clean the fish, and how to fry or broil or stew, and you’ve taught me something truly useful.  Which, by the way, is why the early editions of The Joy of Cooking are so wonderful — Irma Rombauer provided not just recipes but an explanation of the basic principles of cooking.  That’s why that cookbook has been in print continuously since 1936 with over 18 million copies sold.

Teach me the principles of soup and I’ll make my own recipe.

Potato soup ingredients

So in case you want to know what I did, here it is, today’s recipe for potato soup, with annotations.  Next time I won’t make it the same way.  As for trying my recipe?  Do what you will, that is the only advice (apology to Mr. Crowley)

Ingredients

  • 5 potatoes of varying sizes I grabbed some potatoes that I forgot I had.  They hadn’t gone green yet and that didn’t have lots of sprouts.  Most of the rest will get planted when it’s warmer if they don’t go into the compost, darn it
  • 1 onion It needed using before it needed to join the potatoes in the garden
  • 3 large carrots because I like carrots
  • 1 cup chopped kale because I had it, because it doesn’t store well and the horses won’t eat it, and because it would make the soup photo pretty
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 TBS cumin because I love the taste
  • 1 TBS Golden Paste (turmeric) because it’s good for me.  You can use plain turmeric if you don’t have Golden Paste handy, or don’t put any in the soup at all
  • Some veggie oil
  • A big blob of butter
  • Secret ingredient:  Left-over coffee from this morning
  • Water

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a deep pan or a soup pot.  Melt butter in the oil.  Don’t let it get so hot it smokes!
  • Chop the onions into chunks and saute in the oil/ butter.  While that’s cooking, do the potatoes. Don’t forget to stir every so often so nothing sticks to the pan.
  • Chop the potatoes into chunks and add to the onions.  While that’s cooking, do the carrots.
  • Chop the carrots into smallish pieces and add to the onions/carrots.  While that’s cooking, do the kale.
  • Chop the kale and stir into the rest.
  • Add the pepper, and the other spices if you like them.
  • Add the coffee (it was about 8 oz).  I like coffee in my sauces and soups because it adds a nice dark color and some depth and richness to the taste.  I tend to not bother with meat broths, which would do the same.
  • Add water to cover all ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and simmer on low till it’s getting mushy.  Leave the lid cocked a little so the liquid reduces some, but watch that it doesn’t reduce too much and burn your veggies.  My soup was started on the gas stove and finished on the wood stove.

OK, here’s the fun part.  After the soup’s cooked a while but before it’s done you can start adjusting the taste.  Be advised that it’s all subjective.  I like to taste what I’ve got, imagine how it might be better (unless it’s perfect already) then add a few things that call to me.

  • Add salt.  Or maybe soy sauce.  Or not.
  • Try these (they’re in my soup right now):  Tarragon, basil, coriander.
  • Heavy cream, if you’re into cream of potato soup.  I’ve got powdered heavy cream I might add later.   Or not.

My soup’s cooking right now.  It needs a few hours of simmering, but it’s already tasting interesting.  But you know the best part of this?  However it turns out, it doesn’t matter.  It wasn’t only ever about the eating part.

I’ll report later how the soup turns out,  good or bad!

EDITED: same evening.  I had a bowl of my soup straight, with some added salt.  If I make it again I’ll add salt in the beginning  It tasted fine, but it was more like a veggie stew than a soup.

For a second bowl I mashed the veggies and then added plain yogurt.  Oh my, now that’s good.  But also, I felt that the whole dish would have been improved with the addition of lentils early on.  I think more potatoes would have been a good idea.

I’m too full now for a third bowl, so that experiment is for tomorrow.  I’m going to run the soup through a blender and add the heavy cream instead of yogurt.  Actually, I think I’ll add the cream (powdered) tonight so it’ll have a chance to blend in with the other flavors.

EDITED: next day.  Oh boy oh boy oh boy.  YUMMY!  I can’t decide whether I like the yogurt version or the cream version better.  I’ll have to make this soup again to find out because it’s all gone now!

I’m giving this soup 4 of 5 stars!  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ☆