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bridge between the two ranges. We have a low altitude air bridge there.
When we test cruise missiles, we oftentimes fly them around down here; take them up this air bridge; use this mountainous terrain up here to test the full capabilities of the weapon and bring it back home to the range for impact.
Do you have any questions?
[The prepared statement of Colonel Larkin follows:]
Statement of Colonel Thomas Larkin, Utah Test and Training Range, U.S. Air Force, Hill Air Force Base, Utah,
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) and the challenges we face in properly managing the associated range and airspace. I also appreciate the opportunity to discuss H.R. 2488 and specifically the proposed language that addresses the vital activities that take place on the UTTR. As the 388th Range Director, my organization provides key functions and capabilities required for support of Air Force operational test and training programs at the UTTR. This includes range infrastructure systems, equipment, software, targets, facilities, data processing and display, land and airspace, security, and safety.
I will begin by saying that maintaining continued access to our ranges and airspace is absolutely critical. In fact, if our ability to train our aircrews continues to diminish, America will soon lose its only edge in air combat proficiency. We can no longer rely on current Air Force technology to provide an advantage against our next adversary-that next adversary already has access to more advanced equipment than ours. It is only our superior training that enables pilots to have the upper hand in air combat. Additionally, AF ranges accommodate important civilian industry aeronautical testing and provide for public use and natural and cultural resource protection. We take our stewardship responsibility seriously as we balance our training priorities with environmental concerns.
The mission of UTTR is to train our warfighters and to safely test weapons that require large amounts of airspace and landmass. This range provides the largest overland safety footprint available in the Department of Defense (DoD) for aircrew training and weapons testing. By "footprint," I mean a large land area that can safely accommodate weapons that may be fired dozens of miles away from a target. Of the total 12,574 square nautical miles comprising the Range, 6,010 are restricted airspace and 6,564 are Military Operating Areas (MOAS). The range supports training customers with capabilities for air-to-ground, air-to-air, and ground force exercises. This includes testing and training for allied forces, other national agencies, civilian industry, and civilian academic institutions.
UTTR is the primary training range for the pilots who fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon for the 388th Fighter Wing and the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base. Approximately 15,800 sorties are flown annually within the UTTR airspace. These 15,800 sorties include approximately 390 test sorties, 650 B-1B sorties, 380 B-52 sorties, 2,500 US Navy/Marine Corps sorties, and 200 allied air forces sorties. Additionally, we conduct Cruise Missile testing, ground weapons testing, NASA support, industry testing, as well as support to universities and high school research projects. UTTR'S capabilities are critical to the successful fielding of the weapons systems America will depend on to secure its future. Tomorrow's weapons will be more sophisticated and have greater ranges than the weapons of today. UTTR is ideally suited for testing and training of these advanced systems. Since we can't predict technology developments, we need to be able to use the capabilities of UTTR flexibly. The proposed bill provides UTTR the flexibility to successfully accomplish the mission today and tomorrow.
Comments on H.R. 2488
The Air Force supports the protection of wilderness and has many effective programs in place near our installation and training ranges with that goal in mind. Our experience with these programs shows that, if done correctly, military training and environmental preservation can be effectively accomplished. This proposed legislation ensures that designation of the Pilot Range Wilderness does not adversely affect our ability to conduct realistic training and testing operations. The proposed Wilderness bill is an excellent example that military range operations and wilderness areas can be compatible.
The proposed Wilderness area in the Pilot Range interfaces with three of the key UTTR sub-airspaces, the LUCIN A and B MOAS, and the 6404C Restricted Area. In FY-00 we flew 7780 sorties in these areas at varying altitudes from 100 feet AGL to 58,000 feet AGL. This airspace is vital to our operation on the northern portions of the UTTR and provide a critical air-bridge between the north and south parts of the range, which are divided along Interstate Highway 80 (I-80).
Key provisions of this legislation acknowledge the UTTR and Dugway Proving Ground as unique and irreplaceable national assets and that continued unrestricted access is a national security priority. We support the concept that designation of wilderness areas and testing and training missions are not incompatible. Understanding the Wilderness Act does not prohibit or restrict low-level overflights; H.R. 2488 recognizes that fact in the provision specifically noting that low-level overflight will not be restricted. Language allowing continued use and maintenance of on-the-ground electronic systems, as well as the installation of newly required systems, is also critical.
I must also emphasize the importance of Sec 2., Paragraphs (4) and (5) concerning emergency access and or control or restriction of public access. If an accident occurs during a military or civilian test it is imperative that we have immediate access and authority to control all public access to the areas concerned-without any requirement to gain approval from other agencies. This access is vital to protect the lives of aircrew, insure the safety of the public, and protect classified materials and programs. Case in point, we've had an F-16 go down in the Fish Springs Range-a Wilderness Study Area-and we were able to recover our aircraft with only minor environmental impacts.
Maintaining our edge in air combat is directly linked to robust training capabilities, capabilities inherent in continued access to AF ranges and airspace. The AF recognizes the need to balance its test, training, and readiness requirements with responsible stewardship. We continue to look to our installations, ranges, and airspace to provide the AF the operational flexibility, efficiency, and realism necessary to continuously enhance readiness while allowing commanders to minimize, to the extent possible, the impacts of their mission on the community and the environment. Providing one of the world's best training and test environments while preserving the wilderness experience can and should be compatible.
A newspaper article from the Ogden, Standard Examiner, July 6, 2001, identifies the UTTR as "one of the most pristine spots in the nation," according to Professor Neil West of Rangeland Resources, Utah State University.
Of the 1.7 million acres of DoD land within the UTTR complex, less than 1% is "developed" for military operations while the remaining 99% is maintained in a wilderness-like condition. The condition of the UTTR is due in large part to the time, efforts and resources expended by the United States Air Force to protect the environment in accordance with the laws of the United States, the State of Utah, and the State of Nevada. To date, Hill Air Force Base has spent approximately $4.9 million on various environmental programs on the UTTR. Future expenditures of over $15 million are estimated to ensure continued environmental protection. We protect this environment to guarantee effective combat testing and training and because it's the right thing to do.
Continued access to the entire Utah Test and Training Range is of vital importance to the Department of Defense, other national agencies and civilian institutions and industry. The future geopolitical environment remains uncertain, but one aspect continues to be critical for the success of the United States-we must strive to continue testing and training in our established military ranges while minimizing the impact of our operations on the surrounding environment. With the advent of future airpower weapons systems requiring sufficient airspace to train in, the UTTR, along with our other military ranges, must be preserved in their entirety. Your kind consideration of these comments and your efforts to protect the UTTR as a national treasure are deeply appreciated.
Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you.
Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. Well, I think most of my questions probably would go to Mr. Fulton.
Mr. HEFLEY. Okay.
Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. The first question, Mr. Fulton: your testimony states that the administration support for a 37,000-acre
wilderness, but it is our understanding that we are only asking to designate or the sponsor is asking to designate 22,000 acres, and the map that is being prepared reflects the 22,000 acre figure. Does the administration support the designation of only 22,000? Yes orMr. FULTON. Yes; the answer is yes.
Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. And the 22,000-acre wilderness would exclude significant lands that have wilderness characteristics in the Pilot Range. Would your analysis of H.R. 2488 not be different if you used the 22,000-acre figure that the sponsor intends for the area?
Mr. FULTON. No; I do not think so. While it is true that the Pilot Range has more than 22,000 acres of land that has wilderness characteristics, it is not the Department of the Interior that makes the wilderness designation. That is a factor done by the Congress, and the administration would support the bill as proposed to be amended to the 22,000-acre number.
Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. Even though there are some areas of particular concern right at the border, the boundary of that wilderness and that that area of particular concern-I think it is an area of particular concern-would not be included in that area?
Mr. FULTON. Well, we would anticipate working with the author of the bill and others to arrive at a management plan that provides the wilderness designation for the 22,000 acres and then, in the resource management plan for the additional acres, those acres would be managed under a different regime.
Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. I see; thank you.
And I wanted to ask you, too, Mr. Fulton, a question about the military. Last Congress, Former Secretary Babbitt personally testified that military use language identical to that found in 2488 was an unprecedented intrusion and destruction of wilderness. That is a quote: "The unprecedented intrusion and destruction of wilderness," and gives the Air Force more control over BLM public lands than they currently have. Why should we or why would we support permitting the military to have this amount of control over the area as wilderness more so than it has over other, regular public lands?
Mr. FULTON. We do not see this as a matter of control but rather as partnering up with an important mission of a sister department, the Department of Defense; the criticality of being able to accomplish the defense mission for the country is one that is important. Since the Department of the Interior controls-the Bureau of Land Management controls nearly one in four acres of land in the United States, it is just very important that the two departments work closely together to make sure that both accomplish their missions. Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. I still have some questions in my own mind about it, and, you know, we have had several discussions, maybe more outside of this Committee, about the readiness of our armed forces, which I fully support the need for exercises and for our military to be properly trained for the missions that we may need them to go to to defend us and the rest of the country, so I am not in any way wanting to interfere with that, but I am just questioning whether that is compatible with wilderness.
Mr. FULTON. I do not think that that compatibility is exclusive. Some of the best areas of wilderness or nondevelopment assets are
within our military bases, so we do not find that a military use of a land area would make that automatically not useful as wilder
Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. I do not have any other questions at this time.
Mr. HEFLEY. Mr. Hansen?
Mr. HANSEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Fulton, does the Secretary support the language in the bill regarding grazing rights, water rights and wildlife management? Mr. FULTON. Yes, sir, she does.
Mr. HANSEN. Is BLM's current ACEC designation providing adequate protection for wildlife management?
Mr. FULTON. Does she support that?
Mr. HANSEN. Yes.
Mr. FULTON. Yes; we would anticipate working closely with state fish and game officials as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service to make sure that fish and game animals are adequately protected.
Mr. HANSEN. Mr. Fulton, in 1964, when the bill was passed, a lot of phrases were used. One was considered what is pure wilderness. And Senator Humphrey commented on that on the Senate side. Of course, he made the statement: he said the very most wilderness there could ever imagine in the United States, Alaska and Hawaii, would be 30 million acres. Alaska has got over 100 million acres all by itself and going up.
Anyway, that pure thing came down to the idea of no roads; is that right?
Mr. FULTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. No structures.
Mr. FULTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. No buildings, no cattle ponds, no roads; he mentioned that; no fences. That is the pure definition, is it not?
Mr. FULTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. So those who tout the idea of pure wilderness would kind of agree with that; would you agree with that?
Mr. FULTON. Yes.
Mr. HANSEN. So some of the things have wilderness characteristics but have those things in them.
Mr. FULTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. And so, really, whether it is BLM, Forest Service or Park Service, you will find that sometimes, Congress does what they very well want to do. I mean, we could put New York City in wilderness if it had enough votes.
Mr. FULTON. It is certainly the prerogative of the Congress.
Mr. HANSEN. We would hope that would not happen. Sometimes, the idea really appeals to me, however.
Mr. HANSEN. But carrying that on, you get down to the point of, well, what is pure wilderness? Now, do you not feel that it is the position of Congress to try their very best to follow their own law? Mr. FULTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. And is that not the position of the Secretary and you folks working at Interior, you folks who wear the uniform, to follow the law of the land?
Mr. FULTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANSEN. I figured it was.
Colonel, let me ask you a question about a question my friend Mr. Young made in a recent email. He referred to the language protecting the UTTR as the worst part of the bill. In addition, in his testimony, he states: "Members of Congress should recognize Section 2(f) for what it is: an antiwilderness initiative that is unnecessary; erodes the authority of the Department of the Interior and unnecessarily restricts individual freedom that is not restricted on other public and private lands far closer to Hill Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range."
Now, do you agree with that?
Colonel LARKIN. No, sir, I do not. If we look at the entire range there, and there are quite a few wilderness study areas inside the range on BLM properties; we overfly wilderness study areas and, on other ranges, wilderness areas all the time. This is not something new or different.
Mr. HANSEN. So in your opinion, it is very necessary that this language in this bill is in there to protect the work that you folks do; is that right?
Colonel LARKIN. Yes, sir; low-level flying and all types of overflight over the wilderness area is of vital importance to us. We have to be able to not only test the weapons capability from the very lowest altitudes that it can operate at and be employed at; also, the very highest. Also, we need to be able to train our air crews to employ that weapon or different types of weapons in all sorts of environments.
Mr. HANSEN. I had the privilege of flying in one of your F-16-B models in the back seat there. I have never been so sick in my life but anyway—
Mr. HANSEN. -let me point out that we got pretty low. How low do you go in those things? I thought we were dragging our wheels to the grass when we were there.
Colonel LARKIN. The illusion of speed; sometimes, it can get pretty low, though. And most of the time, it is to the limits of the training of the pilot, but that can vary from anywhere on high-speed aircraft from about 100 feet to no higher than, you know, 500 feet is what we would call low altitude. But helicopters can fly 10 feet from the earth at 100 knots and do so all the time.
Mr. HANSEN. If we took the suggestion of some of the environmental groups regarding overflights of wilderness, parks and other pristine areas, what would that do to the training? That is unfair, because I did not explain what some of their language is, and it varies, but a lot of these folks just do not want any overflights. In fact, we had a lady on this Committee by the name of Sala Burton who put in a bill at one time that said you could not fly over any national parks at any altitude.
Colonel LARKIN. I think you would tie up a lot of airways that we would have a lot of bottlenecks.
Mr. HANSEN. 379 units of the Park Service would-I would hate to be an airline pilot. I do not know how you could make it from the East Coast to the West Coast.
Colonel LARKIN. Right.