Posted by CODEPINK Staff
Drone Expansion in the U.S. by Nancy Mancias
Headlines fill the news about U.S. expansion of secret drone bases in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and beyond, but little is mentioned about the military land grab for expansion in southern Colorado, northern New Mexico. Labeled by the Not 1 More Acre campaign as the "largest Joint Forces Future Combat Systems training site in the world", the Army has its eye set on seizing generational ranch land for unmanned aerial development, low altitude flights and robotic weaponry testing.
The military acquisition would take up 94,000 square miles of mostly private property, displacing thousands of Coloradans, yet the civilian airspace for a robotic flight zone is a whole nother grab bag. The flight zone would reach across state lines, across sovereign indigenous nations, across national parks, going as far north as Aspen, Colorado to as far south as Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Air Force Special Operations have launched a civilian campaign, staging public forums in areas most impacted by the airspace takeover. Military personnel are laying out a proposal and even drafting their own environmental plan where fate will be decided in Washington D.C., but opposition to the Air Force’s ambitious acquisition has swelled.
Devon Jackson with the New Mexico Independent writes about the Air Force’s public turnout, “As has been the case at other meetings held over the past year, more opponents than supporters showed up.” This could be partly due to the strategic efforts of ranchers and activists associated with the Not 1 More Acre campaign. With a passion in her voice, campaigner Jean Aguerre charges on to her next move in specifically reaching out to “non-affiliated women voters” to show up to the public forums. Somehow Aguerre and the team at Not 1 More Acre have managed to outsmart the military, having an impressive list of successes to show for it.
Courtesy of Not 1 More Acre! website
• In 2007, Not 1 More Acre! fostered an overwhelming (383-34) bipartisan Congressional vote to ban funding for any activity related to expansion at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, a ban that Not 1 More Acre! has successfully petitioned Congress to renew each year since.
• In 2009 Not 1 More Acre! won a Federal Court Order under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) enjoining the Army from expanding training at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. Not 1 More Acre! provides unrelenting legal defense against violations of the court order to uphold the integrity of laws banishing Transformation from Pinon Canyon.
• In 2011, when the four-year-old funding ban prohibiting military expansion at Pinon Canyon was stolen away from the appropriations bill, Not 1 More Acre! alerted opponents across the nation. Thousands of taxpayers stood up and spoke out demanding restoration of the Congressional funding ban. Their swift and sure action caused the House to restore the funding ban for another year.
• Not 1 More Acre! and Grassland Trust actively engage Freedom of Information Act requests for records that serve the public interest by revealing government’s plans, contracts and activities advancing military takeover of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico including the last intact shortgrass prairie remaining in the American Great Plains.
Time has long passed to gain success over military encroachment in Indian Springs, Nevada, home of Creech Air Force Base. Situated on a beautiful desert landscape, built in the early 1940s for gunnery training, the base has become part of a rapidly growing movement of drone bases sprouting up across the nation. Yet with alternative strategies, campaigners with the Nevada Desert Experience host continuous demonstrations outside the base. Jim Haber, coordinator with the campaign, told an audience at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan “we are trying to stop a runaway train”.
Indeed, with the drone industry moving at lightning speed and the Department of Defense ready to divvy out taxpayers cash to contractors, Nevada Desert Experience and other organizations ready themselves to challenge the front lines of Creech Air Force Base. At a recent gathering of Catholic Workers, 18 activists were arrested for blocking the entrances to the air base.
While grassroots organizations are obstructing the military takeover of southern Colorado, northern New Mexico ranch land and obstructing the entrance to a major drone base, one wonders how communities in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and beyond are dealing with the land and air encroachment for U.S. drone warfare. Even though the media focuses on drone base expansion aboard, the struggles on the ground in those communities could be similar as those in the U.S.