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Grant County to discuss whether F-16 fighter jets can fly over Gila National Forest

Grant County to discuss whether F16 fighter jets can fly over Gila National Forest

SILVER CITY, New Mexico - The Grand County Board of Commissioners will hold a special meeting Tuesday to seek public comment on a proposed expansion of Holloman Air Force Base.

In the meeting, which starts at 6 pm, the public can provide input on whether F-16 fighter jets should fly over the Gila National Forest.

Those in opposition of the proposal have planned a protest for 5 p.m. at the Grant County Administration Center.

Jody Andrews, a resident of Silver City for 37 years, told ABC-7 she is opposed to military flights over the city.

"For numerous reasons. Wildlife, the area here where we get to hike in the beautiful wilderness and so forth, the disruptions of all of that could be caused from this," said Andrews, "I am within a half a mile of the national forest, where I live right now. My middle daughter was born in the national forest, right off the continental divide. Very into the wilderness here."

Andrews said she feels the Air Force needs to communicate more openly with residents. 

"The forest is everything that's kept me here," Andrews said, "It's just a whole focus to my whole lifestyle, holistically. It's just wonderful, this area that we have ... we want to have tourists come. We really push our forest on people."

Andrews is concerned tourists will no longer want to camp or hike in the wilderness if military planes will be flying overhead. "They are loud. They obviously do disrupt wildlife," Andrews said.

Mike Cox, who lives within half a mile of the forest, is a 10-year resident of Silver City. "I don't think they should have any military flights over the Gila Wilderness area or the Gila area in general or the river," Cox said, "It's the first designated wilderness in this area - I think it's absurd that they have to train with military jets at low levels over this area."

Cox said the area is peaceful "and that's the way it should remain."

ABC-7 reached out to the Air Force, which did not reply by deadline.


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