Help Save Owyhee Region from Low-Altitude Supersonic Testing

Photo By: Photo by Kevin Bidwell from Pexels
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In a rare personal ploy, I am asking you, my fellow overlanders, to help make your voice heard in defense of the Owyhee region. The Air Force wishes to perform near-supersonic testing as low as 100 feet above the ground and flights above the sound barrier at 5,000 feet in the Owyhee region that straddles Idaho, Nevada, and my home state of Oregon.

For those of you unfamiliar, Owyhee is one the most remote parts of the lower 48. Looking at the region at night from space, it’s the darkest bit of our country. More than just remote, it’s also stunningly beautiful. It’s a maze of canyons that have been cut into the ancient plateau over millennia. The landscape has been further shaped by volcanic activity, exemplified by Jordan Craters, a basalt lava flow around 3,200 years old.

Owyhee is also teeming with wildlife, including all kinds of birds, deer, wild horses, and mountain goats — just to name a few.

For all these reasons, it is perhaps the greatest overlanding destination in America. And a lot of its charm, its serene beauty could be dashed by these plans.

The takeaway from the official impact statement is that wildlife (and presumably ranchers and overlanders) will simply get used to the sonic booms in the region. I am unconvinced.

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Before we get into a defense readiness argument, let me echo what cattle ranchers have said in the past about increased military testing in the region.

In a 1990 interview with The Washington Post, Bert Brackett, then president of the Idaho Cattle Association, said: “We cattlemen support a strong national defense. If there’s definitely a national security need, then we’ll sacrifice and do our part. But at this point, we’re not convinced.”

The Air Force is accepting public comments on the draft environmental impact statement online and by mail until September 22, 2021. I implore you to speak out and make your voice heard — whether you agree with me or not. However, I hope you’ll stand with me and ask the Air Force not to disturb one of our nation’s last, great wild spaces.

As an aside note, I’d like to invite you to come explore Owyhee. Put it on your bucket list. It’s worth the time and investment getting into it.

If you’d like to see what Owyhee is like, here’s a link to a video I made about the region earlier this year.

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Photo by Brett Willhelm

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