OP-Ed from Chairman Len George
As a U.S. Army veteran who served overseas, I understand the importance of military readiness and I am thankful that our military has kept us safe during my lifetime. As Chairman of the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe, I stand with my Tribe in supporting re-authorization of the existing Naval Air Station Fallon, which already occupies 232,000 acres of traditional tribal lands adjacent to our Reservation.
However, we strongly oppose the Navy’s proposal to quadruple the size of Naval Air Station Fallon. The Navy’s proposed expansion would close off all public access to 660,000 additional acres of ancestral tribal lands and wilderness areas, turning these sacred public lands into a bombing range. The Navy also seeks to regulate an additional 300,000+ acres, for a total of nearly 1.2 million acres impacted by the base – not including the airspace that will be invaded. If approved by Congress, the American people would lose access to vast areas of culturally and ecologically significant lands in central Nevada, including mountain ranges, expansive valleys, diverse wetlands, high deserts, important wildlife areas, and precious geothermic and geologic features.
This so-called “modernization” of Naval Air Station Fallon is ill-conceived, premature, and unnecessary. Congress should reject the Navy’s proposed expansion.
Numerous governments and organizations stand with our Tribe in vocally opposing the Navy’s massive land grab. The Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Nevada State Legislature have all adopted resolutions formally opposing the proposed expansion of Naval Air Station Fallon. In addition, local Nevada counties and veterans, conservation, and wildlife organizations have joined the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe in calling on Congress to reject the Navy’s flawed proposal. After all, the U.S. military has fought and is fighting to protect America – not close it off to American citizens.
The Navy recently released a final analysis of the expansion proposal and the hundreds of public comments received regarding the proposal. Those comments reflect that fully 98% of the public opposes the proposal. And yet, the Navy is preparing to charge ahead with its proposal as if the views of 98% of people don’t matter. Furthermore, my Tribe’s consistent and repeated concerns have been ignored.
For more than 10,000 years, regional Tribes have relied on the very lands that the Navy wants to use to expand its bombing practice. When non-Native settlers arrived on our lands, the United States government allowed us to keep only tiny Reservations that we did not choose. Consequently, we continue to utilize our ceded ancestral lands – presently public lands – for religious and cultural activities such as gathering, hunting, ceremonies, and burials. The proposed expansion of Naval Air Station Fallon would destroy our way of life because it would allow the Navy to bomb our burials and other important cultural sites, and deny us access to those areas. Congress would never allow Arlington National Cemetery to be bombed for training exercises or ban the public from going there to pay their respects – our sites deserve the same protection.
The proposed expansion of Naval Air Station Fallon is dangerous and disrespectful. As Fallon Paiute Shoshone people, we know from decades of Navy activities on our traditional lands that the Navy will deny access and destroy sacred sites on any lands Congress authorizes for Navy activities. Despite repeated demands, the Navy has refused to incorporate into its proposal adequate identification and protection of our sacred sites or guaranteed access to our ancestral lands. Given these failures,
Congress should follow the will of the people and reject the Navy’s proposed expansion of Naval Air Station Fallon.
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Len George was elected Chairman of the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe in 2002 and remains in that position. He was raised and lives in Fallon, Nevada, and prides himself in the history of his people, their ways, culture, land and water.
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