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The U.S. Air Force invades Death Valley, and who let the dogs out?



A line in the sand: With America’s eyes glued on East Coast aggression, few may notice or even complain that the U.S. Air Force is attempting an unprecedented encroachment into national park territory. According to PEER—Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility—the aerial branch of the armed services wants to build active facilities in the literal hotbed of Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley contains our continent’s broadest array of ecosystems. This reserve protects an area spanning from the 11,049-foot Telescope Peak to Badwater, a dry divot 284 feet below sea level, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. Federally recognized for its scenic majesty in 1933, this desert gem was fortified as a national park in 1994. As a safe haven for things not fabricated, national parks are required to maintain natural systems and provide for their unimpaired enjoyment.

The solar- and generator-powered military installations are slated to occupy a rare desert wetland known as Saline Valley, an area the BLM once designated as “an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.” Despite its reputation as the least regulatory of all federal land management agencies, the BLM notes that this fragile area contains no less than 27 archaeological sites, and acts as an oasis for the desert region's plants and wildlife.

Folks practicing personal versions of desert solitaire should be delighted to know that an Environmental Assessment (EA) is both required and being conducted, although the lead agency conducting the EA is—surprise!—the Air Force itself.

Reports of secret Stealth bomber hangers in Yellowstone NP could not be confirmed.

Who let the dogs out? Lucky for some local officials that man’s best friend can’t talk. If he could, there might be a whole lot of complaining. When someone is arrested in Missoula and taken unceremoniously from her van, who is responsible for the ten dogs and two cats she left behind?

Here’s the picture on a recent early Sunday evening in the neighborhood: You’re finally settling down with the fat weekend edition. You hear a bark, then several, then what seems like hundreds, a veritable cacophony of woofs and yips, howls and ululations. You see an old van parked on the corner and after an hour of endless barking, you ring the Missoula Police Department. You lodge a complaint: Noise, peace disturbance, animal neglect. No one comes. At 1:30 am, as furious as the dogs, you phone again.

After 9 am, you hear a different noise. You look out the window to see that most of the dogs are running around the streets, having chewed their way out of the van. They gobble up the food and water you put out; they’re famished, frowzy, though not starving. You are furious. What if it had been 95 degrees, hot sun, 100 degrees humidity—would no one still have come to rescue the dogs?

Animal Control is available from 8am-5pm. The police have a key to their kennels for off-hour emergencies. But according to the PD, there has to be more of a reason than barking. Unless a dog is running around loose or biting people, the call is put in and Animal Control takes care of it after the coffee’s on … it’s the officer’s judgment call.

Clearly, no one claimed responsibility for those four-legged friends. Had you been those dogs, you might have chewed your way out of the van too. Here’s to strong teeth.

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