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Roswell officials seek more input on military airspace plan

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Roswell officials want the Air Force to better include area residents in discussions on its proposal to expand airspace use in southeast New Mexico.

Area leaders met with Air Force officials in Roswell on Wednesday, looking for the military branch to increase its dialogue with the public.

The Air Force announced last year that it was examining its airspace use at sites across the country, giving high priority to the Holloman Air Force Base region in Alamogordo for its role in training of F-16 fighter pilots.

In a notice published last year, the Air Force said it was considering expanding two military operations areas in New Mexico. One of the proposals would affect the airspace around Roswell, Artesia and Carlsbad.

The Air Force held public scoping meetings in Carlsbad, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces in September following a notice of intent to begin an Environmental Impact Statement on the airspace changes. The Air Force also held a meeting with the Grants County Board of Commissioners at the county’s request.

Some residents of southeast New Mexico have voiced concerns that altering the military’s airspace could disrupt commercial flights, private aviation enterprises and air ambulance services. Some businesses also said the local economy could take a hit because the airspace change could deter Navy pilots from training at the Roswell airfield.

The Air Force has not seemed willing to meet with economic development officials from those communities, said Kyle Armstrong, a member of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation.

“We aren’t hearing from them, and they aren’t hearing from us,” Armstrong said. “They can essentially publish their plan without having gotten any input from the public in southeast New Mexico.”

The Air Force is planning to hold additional public hearings after the Environmental Impact Statement is drafted later this year, said Capt. Kaylee Ausbun, and Air Force public affairs officer.

“Locations that didn’t have a scoping meeting may likely have a hearing,” Ausbun said. “The draft EIS sparks the timeline for the hearings.”

Comments from the public are still being considered as the draft is prepared, Ausbun said.

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