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Guard training flights should avoid wild places

Whether people favored or opposed the war in Iraq, nearly everyone made it clear that they supported the U.S. troops sent on the mission.

Now the question of supporting the troops has come a lot closer to home, and it’s taken an environmental twist.

The Colorado Army National Guard is seeking approval from the U.S. Forest Service to double the number of training flights its helicopter pilots make from the Eagle County Airport. The guard wants to increase flights from 3,000 hours a year to 6,000. (An entire year is 8,760 hours.)



Training flights are usually done in a 25-mile radius of the Eagle County Airport, so the flights are mostly over national forest and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.

Flight training is important for guard pilots, who may be called into active duty at any time. And the Eagle airport provides a good base for high-elevation training, which they would encounter in places like Afghanistan.



But some of the training areas guard pilots are flying over are otherwise wild and untrammeled, and it’s important that the National Guard recognize the value of lands unspoiled by aircraft noise.

In particular, sensitive areas like Deep Creek Canyon and parts of Red Table Mountain should be avoided. And the U.S. Forest Service should do its duty to protect those wild places from a daily barrage of helicopter noise.

With the right amount of give and take, the Forest Service should be able to mark a reasonable set of flight patterns to give pilots a challenging route but avoid the most pristine areas.

We should expect to make some sacrifices to support our troops, but the Forest Service should not allow sensitive national forest lands to be ruined in the process.


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