No OLF Stands Up for the Environment

The following is strictly an opinion piece based on one of my recent experiences.

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I had the opportunity to speak with several representatives for “NO OLF” recently at the North Carolina Wildlife Federation Conference where they had prominently displayed their literature and videos. Although I have heard an overall buzz about this issue, I never truly understood the heart of the matter until speaking with the members of this organization who are “fighting the good fight” fervently. 

For those, like me, who were unaware of the meaning, NO OLF stands for North Carolinians against an Outlying Landing Field.  Here is the basis of their hard work that I pulled from the organization’s website: 

“The US Navy plans to build an OLF (Outlying Landing Field) in the heart of the Atlantic Flyway. The birds there are protected by the International Migratory Bird Treaty.  The Navy´s studies downplayed the substantial risk of collisions between jets and the huge flocks of large migratory birds that winter in the area, and minimized adverse impacts to a globally significant wildlife refuge. The OLF will displace farming families dating back several generations and homeowners.” 

Basically, the Navy wants to build a landing field in the middle of this migratory bird sanctuary containing swans, geese and ducks: 

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These birds flock to this location (straddling Washington and Beaufort Counties) for the winter where they rely and feed on surrounding fallow farm fields for survival.  Their goal is to feed and their flying patterns are highly unpredictable as they dive and swerve toward their food sources.  This means that they are highly unavoidable in relation to these mighty jets that would be cutting across the same pathways in the sky, as depicted in this photo.  Look at the proximity of that bird to the engine of the plane! 

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This situation is a danger for the birds, the pilots, and the surrounding community.  If one of these enormous, graceful birds were to get caught in an engine, the bird would be eliminated, the pilot risks a crash, and the community would have to live in fear of an unwieldy plane landing wherever it may in such an instance; whether it be a school, church, home, etc.  And eventually, the birds will be eliminated by way of noise pollution.  Despite the Navy’s stance, these birds are apparently quite sensitive to sound and vibrations. 

This area targeted for the OLF is also home to the endangered Red Wolf, which has taken up happy residence there.  This particular wolf is not yet considered a “high” priority on the federally endangered list, although it is recognized as endangered, so the habitat is therefore not considered off limits for development.  But, take away the delicate ecosystem and drive away the source of food for these predators, and you are facing a grave situation for the species. 

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Now, with all that said, I was dumbfounded to hear that the Navy already has several Outlying Landing Fields that could be revived for use, one of which is also located in eastern North Carolina. 

 

From my understanding, one of these alternative fields would be a perfectly reasonable solution to all of the disagreement and duress surrounding the current proposal, but for no apparent reason, the Navy has simply made up its mind where it wants to go.  They won’t budge, no matter how much irreparable harm may be done to the environment and one of the largest bird sanctuaries in North America.  All of this to prove a point that they ultimately have the power.  As a matter of fact, here is what Jeffrey J. Short, Colonel (ret.) USAFR, considered the “father” of the USAF Bird Avoidance Model was quoted as saying in a letter to Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Army in April 2003.  This truly supports the notion that there is no good reason for this field aside from a pride issue:

 

“In 25 years of dealing with military BASH (Bird Air Strike Hazard) issues, I cannot recall a worse place to situate an airfield for jet training.”

I spent a great deal of time listening to the facts on this matter and I was repeatedly astounded.  This was not the ranting of a radical group or an “anti-Navy” group with unfounded logic…quite the opposite.  The overall feeling I left with after sitting in on this session during the conference was that this is a group of people fighting for the integrity of their land, many of which hail from generational military families.  In my eyes, there was actually a strong sense of disappointment and conflict, as so many of the residents of the community seem to take extreme pride in their country and our military, but they are being forced to fight against an organization that they respect in once sense, and loathe in another.   

The issue lies in the fact that this is a small town standing up to an irreverent government by any means available.  Much like a scrawny child getting picked on by a bully at school, the Navy believes that with enough pressure and frustration, the opposition will relent, give in and give up.  I commend this strong community of people that is not willing to give in without a fight.  If you would like to learn more about this issue or become more involved, please visit: www.noolf.com   

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A young resident pleads for help in saving the community that has been in his family for generations during the NO OLF Conference Session.