OFFICE OF GOV. STEVE BULLOCK

HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock on Dec. 22 sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx stating his strong opposition to the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex to train bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

The U.S. Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration are currently seeking to expand the PRTC to 28,000 square miles in North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and southeastern Montana, making it the largest training area in the continental U.S.

Earlier in 2014, Bullock wrote a letter outlining responsible ways the proposed expansion could be changed to be made acceptable to Montanans. Because these recommendations weren’t implemented in the most recent proposal, Bullock is encouraging Hagel and Foxx not to move forward with the plan.

“There is no doubt that Montanans support our nation’s efforts to enhance national security,” Bullock wrote in his most recent letter. “Montanans volunteer to serve our country at a higher rate than any other state in the nation. The PRTC expansion proposal, however, would be at the expense of the livelihoods and economic prosperity of many Montanans.”

In his letter, Bullock highlights the negative impacts that the training center’s expansion would have on farmers, ranchers, energy developers, municipal and private airports and the overall safety of Montanans. Bullock also noted that the sonic booms created by some of the bombers would be disruptive to livestock and wildlife.

Of particular concern is the greater sage-grouse, a bird the state has been working to keep off the endangered species list. Earlier this year, Bullock created the Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Program to ensure management of the bird remains in state hands.

The governor also proposed several revisions for the safety and economic security of Montanans, such as providing real time advisories of military aircraft operations to civilian aircraft, providing low altitude radar and communication capabilities within the training center operations and expanding and detailing the adaptive management approach.