HO-CHUNK OPPOSE BOMBING RANGE EXPANSION
The Ho-Chunk Nation (formerly the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe) has joined a new environmental alliance in its ceded territory in southwestern Wisconsin. The alliance is committed to stopping plans by the Wisconsin Air National Guard (ANG) for low-level training flights of jet fighters and bombers. The plan calls for hundreds of flights each year in the peaceful valleys of the Driftless Region -- sometimes at near-treetop level -- to train pilots from around the country in the evasion of radar by flying low in hilly terrain (which resembles Bosnia). The high-speed jets would give little or no warning before they fly over with an ear-splitting roar, frightening humans (especially children and elders) and farm animals.
The opposition began among dairy farmers concerned with the stress effects on cattle in other regions with low-level flights. It spread to organic farmers, who have a large presence in the Kickapoo Valley area. Amish settlements joined in with an unprecedented handwritten letter opposing the plan -- both from a pacifist perspective, and from fear that their horses may rear or bolt from the sudden noise. Even the right-wing Wisconsin Militia, based in Viroqua, has criticized the plan as a plot to familiarize United Nations pilots with Midwestern topography. County and town boards throughout the area have passed resolutions against the plan.
The Ho-Chunk have come out not only against the flights, but the accompanying planned expansion of the Hardwood Bombing Range, nearby the Rainbow Casino in Nekoosa. The bingo hall hosted a public meeting of the Citizens Against Low-Level Flights. As of early 1996, the National Guard has given in to the opposition against the flights, and has canceled the flight program but still want to expand the bombing range. For the tribe to come out against a military plan is no small matter, given the strong role played by warrior societies and veterans associations in Ho-Chunk history. The National Native American Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- made by tribal member Harry Whitehorse -- was dedicated in 1995 at the Highground Veterans Powwow in Neillsville. Tribal members who oppose the flights say that they are exercising the very democracy that veterans were told they were fighting for.
The Ho-Chunk are not the first Indigenous peoples to oppose low-level flights. The strong European public reaction against low-level training -- including practice strafing runs on vehicles and homes -- convinced NATO to move low-level training to sparsely-populated areas of North America. In Labrador (northern Newfoundland) and Quebec, the Innu (Montagnais-Naskapi) have fought these flights for years, even occupying the airfields where the NATO jets are based, In Nevada, the Western Shoshone and local ranchers have worked together against low-level test flights by U.S. Air Force jets, which have caused health effects in cattle. The local alliance of Native Americans, farmers, Amish, environmental and peace activists is another step toward changing air training practices worldwide.
"DON'T BOMB OUR FORESTS!"
The first stage of the expansion of Hardwood Bombing Range is imminent. The Air National Guard proposes the "withdrawal" of 3,400 acres of Juneau County Forest Land for exclusive use as its bombing range. It then wants to expand the existing range into adjacent Wood County. The Range has been operating under an exemption to Air Force Air Safety Code AFR-50-46 (which protects nearby populations), but in 1991 the Guard stated that "the development of land immediately adjacent to the range has been substantial for the last few years, and threatens the ability" of the range to keep operating under the exemption. The Guard claims that expansion is the only way to resolve this dilemma.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) claims that the proposed withdrawal does not necessarily constitute a major environmental action. It has carried out an inadequate Environmental Assessment
(EA), and is waiting to receive public comment before deciding to carry out a more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Wisconsin's Environmental Decade Director Pam Porter states, "We are appalled that the DNR has not required a full EIS from the very beginning of this process."
The DNR's EA admits that there have been no surveys of water or air pollution, wildlife populations, or endangered species in the 3,400 acres. It says that there is no record of a clean-up of a 1983 jet
crash. It states that the withdrawal "will have no effect on Native American archeological resources," even though this general area of Wisconsin is rich in ancient mounds.
What You Can Do:
- Write to the DNR (250 Oak St., Mauston, WI 53948), preferably before the October 14, 1996 comments deadline, to insist that a full EIS be done on the Juneau County Forest withdrawal.
- Call the DNR for your own copy of the EA, (608) 266-1727.
- Write to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (425 State St., Rm. 232, LaCrosse WI 54803) to request that he do a Senate inquiry on the safety and legality of the existing range, given its exemption to air safety rules.
- Add your group's name to the list of organizations against the range expansion, by calling Char O'Brien at (608) 337-4555.
- Support the new Ho-Chunk-sponsored group:
Citizens Opposed to Range Expansion (CORE)
916 Chak-Ha-Chee Lane
Nekoosa WI 54457
Phone (715) 886-5392 / Fax (715) 886-5394.