Friday, May 19, 2017

F-35s threaten city, wildlife, recreation

"Keep Public Lands Public" rally organizer Katie Fite, with Wildlands Defense (middle) leads attendees on a march from the Idaho State Capitol to the Boise Centre on January 30, 2016. Fite and other rally members protested outside of a Western Rangelands Property Rights Workshop at the Boise Centre.


The livability of Idaho’s capital city and the viability populations of prized wildlife like bighorn sheep and sage-grouse on public lands in the Owyhee region face a looming threat.

State and city politicians and lobbyists are seeking to bring a squadron of F-35 war planes to the runways of the Boise Airport. It is a regional hub for air traffic, including many tourists and visitors to Idaho. The National Guard currently uses the air-terminal runways for a squadron of A-10s, which may soon be replaced by noise-monster F-35s. This problem-plagued plane is notoriously loud, expensive and fraught with mechanical woes. Sound levels generated will be eight to 16 times louder than the present military planes.  The F-35 is also a fuel hog, and will add to air pollution problems.

The resulting horrific noise will gut neighborhoods on the Boise bench and elsewhere, with an impact zone potentially three miles wide. Some homes will be become unlivable and face condemnation. Others will be substantially devalued. Residents will face a choice of living with the stress and unhealthy effects of extreme noise or selling. Infants and school children will be exposed to noise levels that can cause permanent hearing damage. Airport users will also be exposed to extreme noise levels, especially since the projected peak F-35 activity overlaps midmorning and afternoon commercial flight periods. The city has stonewalled or greatly downplayed citizen concerns over the drastic F-35 effects.

These planes would train over the tristate Owyhee Canyonlands region. This involves mock war games with supersonic flights allowed down to 100 to 300 feet above ground level in Idaho. Planes may transit on military flight lane routes that cross the state. The canyonlands are home to many wildlife species that already face substantial threats. Bighorn sheep evolved in an environment where sudden, loud, low-frequency noise means a rockslide, and may cause panic. Recent sage-grouse studies have shown they are highly sensitive to noise, with birds moving off leks due to noise exposure. A physiological reaction of higher stress hormone levels has been documented. Hiking, camping, wilderness adventure, whitewater rafting and other pursuits draw visitors to the region. Existing military training has already made noise nearly intolerable for recreational use in some areas of the Owyhee.  

F-35 proponents rely on an economic analysis that only considers potential gains. It ignores the blows to housing, quality of life, wildlife and recreation and the human health costs of the F-35s.

There are many alternative National Guard flight missions that must be considered instead of inflicting F-35s on Idaho. The Air Force is soon preparing an EIS to select which two of five National Guard units across the country will get the F-35 “prize.”  The politicians and legions of lobbyists are competing with these other areas. An EIS process is to take place this summer. This is one competition Idaho must lose.

Katie Fite is public lands director of Wildlands Defense, based in Boise.

Original article can be found here:


  1. Katie, That's the sound of freedom. I am sure you are use to that.

  2. Katie, you really want to write this! You honestly want to compare the A-10, F-111 and all the other military jets/planes that have grazed the Idaho landscape over the last 60-70+ years to the F-35!! Please bring some reality back into your words and understand that nothing is changing other than the planes that are used. If this is an issue for you, how about comparing the enormous growth that has been seen in the Boise area over the last 20-30 years and the impact that would have on the Idaho environment!

  3. Whoa! That sounds serious! I live and work at Edwards AFB, where heavy flights operations take place most everyday involving F-35s, along with F-22s, F-16s, etc. The hyperbole she espouses doesn't quite fit what I see and hear everyday. Sensationalized statements like horrific noise, permanent hearing loss, unlivable and condemned housing, etc. seems to me as so much shrill pandering to promote an agenda to justify her organization's existence. 8 to 16 times louder that the present military planes? Where did they pull those figures?