Some ranchers against Cannon airspace increase

By Mike Linn

Cannon Air Force Base’s proposed military airspace expansion has any number of vocal supporters.
Community leaders and economic development officials believe the expansion is important in helping the base remain open after the government’s base realignment and closure process, or BRAC, which should be completed in 2005.
“The airspace would make Cannon more valuable to the Air Force and more valuable to the nation because there are so many bases that don’t have good training airspace,” said Kim Huffman, the chairman of the Roosevelt County Economic Development Corporation and a retired airman.
But some ranchers and two Roosevelt County officials say the expansion is a form of encroachment.
Roosevelt County commissioners Tom Clark and Chad Davis said they believe proposed expansion will not allow ranchers living under airspace to build wind chargers. Wind chargers, also called wind generators, can help supplement a rancher’s income, Davis said.
Second Lt. Jennifer Geeslin of Cannon Public Affairs said an environmental impact study will be completed before a decision can be made to allow or restrict wind chargers on ranches under expanded airspace.
Davis, who owns a ranch under military airspace, said that study won’t matter.
“They don’t even have to do a restriction and these companies (that build wind chargers) won’t even talk to you (if you live near military airspace),” Davis said. “Anytime somebody puts restrictions on what you can do with your property, it hurts your property value.”
Clark said he believes if Cannon is going to expand the airspace, officials there should offer to buy the land below it.
“There’s a lot of people who have hard feelings about the way the government has treated them over this for years and years. They don’t really feel like they get listened to the way that they need to be listened to get their concerns considered,” said Clark, who lives southwest of Portales and almost 40 miles away from the proposed airspace.
“By far there’s a lot more people concerned about what would happen to Clovis and what would happen to Portales if we didn’t have Cannon, but not very many people are worried about what would happen to me as a rancher if the government takes my land.”
While most of the expansion’s critics are ranchers, Huffman and Cannon Commander Col. Robert Yates said there are many ranchers who support the expansion.
“The people here put up with the noise of the airplanes and stuff because they understand the importance — it’s not like that everywhere,” Huffman said.
Huffman said he goes to church with ranchers who have told him they love watching the planes fly over their land.
The ranchers who are for the expansion “aren’t going to get up on a soapbox and demand that it get expanded. … They just don’t make the scene,” Huffman said.