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Fallon Range Training Complex Modernization EIS
1. What is the Fallon Range Training Complex?
Fallon Range Training Complex
(also referred to as the “Fallon Ranges”) hosts training for aviation and ground military units necessary to ensure military readiness for the defense and security of the United States and its interests abroad.
is made up of 12,256 square nautical miles of special use airspace and approximately 232,000 acres of Navy-managed land near Fallon, Nevada.
Airspace and land ranges are used by the Navy and other military services for air and ground training, including live-fire training.
2. What is the Navy proposing to do?
The Navy is proposing to modernize the Fallon Ranges. Modernization would include:
Renewal of the current public land withdrawal
Land range expansion through additional withdrawal of public lands and acquisition of non-federal land
More specifically, the Navy proposes to:
Renew the current public land withdrawal
of 202,859 acres expiring in November 2021
Withdraw and reserve for military use approximately 604,789 acres of additional public land
Acquire approximately 65,160 acres of non-federal land
Expand associated special use airspace and reconfigure existing airspace
Upgrade range infrastructure to support modernization
3. Why is the Navy proposing to modernize the Fallon Ranges?
Newer-generation aircraft and weapons have outpaced the current capabilities of the Fallon Ranges. Training is hindered by inadequate land and airspace, leaving aircrews unable to train as they would fight in the real world.
The proposed modernization would provide the training capabilities needed to meet changing aviation and ground training requirements, while maintaining the safety of local communities.
4. Will more training occur as part of the modernization?
The Navy is not proposing to change the level or type of training from what is currently authorized. Rather, activities would be redistributed across the expanded ranges to allow training to occur at the same time on multiple ranges.
5. Why does the Navy need so much land?
The amount of land needed by the Navy is driven by two factors: 1) the land and airspace needed to meet current and future training requirements, and 2) the minimum safety requirements designed for aviation and ground weapons training, as represented by weapons danger zones and surface danger zones.
To ensure Navy personnel are properly trained for success and survivability in air combat, the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center conducted a comprehensive study of the land and airspace needed to meet combat training requirements for modern aircraft and weapons systems at the Fallon Ranges. The study, called the
Ninety Days to Combat Required Training Capabilities Study
, identified gaps in the capabilities of the Fallon Ranges to meet current and future training requirements. The Navy’s proposed modernization of the Fallon Ranges would close training capability gaps to “tactically acceptable” parameters, but not full compliance with identified training requirements.
Weapons danger zones and surface danger zones represent the minimum safety requirements for aviation and ground weapons training to protect public health and safety. The sizes of the respective danger zones reflect how much land is needed to ensure safety.
A weapons danger zone is a three-dimensional area that encompasses the ground and airspace for the horizontal and vertical containment of projectiles, fragments, or debris resulting from aviation-delivered ordnance.
A surface danger zone is similar to a weapons danger zone, but relates to ordnance used during ground training, such as small arms fired weapons.
6. Why can't the Navy use munitions that require less of a safety zone?
Military personnel must train in the manner in which they will engage in combat in order to reduce the loss of lives.
The types of weapons used in combat are the same types of weapons with which military personnel must train. The required sizes of weapons danger zones are determined using sophisticated computer modeling tools based on the weapons used during training. The size of weapons danger zones being proposed is necessary to ensure the safety of the public at all times.
The Navy employs both live and inert weapons in training to maintain aircrew proficiency in weapons delivery. Inert (non-explosive) practice bombs are used extensively, but the Navy considers training with live weapons to be indispensable to achieving and maintaining combat readiness.
7. Why is the Navy not requesting the amount of land needed to reach full training requirements?
The Navy considered an alternative that would fully meet the tactics, techniques, and procedures as described in the
Ninety Days to Combat
study. While this alternative would meet the purpose of and need for the Proposed Action, the Navy determined this alternative to be not feasible because of the expected impact on the region.
Under this scenario, the expanded ranges would be capable of meeting training requirements and allow forces to train in a realistic 360-degree combat scenario. However, implementation would require nearly double the land as that required for the Proposed Action, as well as extensive revisions to airspace and additional road rerouting.
Rather, the Navy evaluated gaps in air and ground training capabilities against the real-world physical constraints of fully meeting tactics, training, and procedures. The Navy developed revised requirements, called “tactically acceptable” parameters, which could support suitable training while considering these constraints. Tactically acceptable parameters do not represent the full capability recommended in the
Ninety Days to Combat
study, but were deemed acceptable by the Navy for training purposes.
8. Will the Navy need to expand again?
The Navy does not anticipate the need for additional expansion in the foreseeable future.
9. Why is the Navy preparing this EIS?
The Navy is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement, or "EIS", to identify and assess the potential environmental impacts of modernizing the Fallon Ranges.
The Navy is evaluating potential impacts in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to examine the potential environmental impacts of their proposed actions on the environment. The analysis of impacts, as well as input from the public, lead to a more informed decision by the Navy.
10. Will alternatives be analyzed?
Under NEPA, the Navy is required to analyze a range of reasonable alternatives for accomplishing the Proposed Action. “Action” alternatives and a “No Action” alternative will be evaluated in this EIS.
Through the scoping process, held from Aug. 26, 2016, through Dec. 12, 2016, the public provided valuable input on potential alternatives and environmental impacts for the Navy to consider. The Navy has carefully considered these comments, which have helped shaped viable alternatives for analysis in the EIS.
11. What is the "No Action" Alternative?
Under the No Action Alternative:
Land range expansion and airspace changes would not occur.
The Navy would disestablish and cease the use of the Fallon Ranges and reassess the military mission of Naval Air Station Fallon, as the current withdrawal of public land would not be renewed under this alternative.
The Navy would address the relinquishment of the withdrawn lands to the Bureau of Land Management and the associated potential environmental impacts of the land management and land use changes.
12. Has the Navy looked at options other than expansion?
As part of its planning process, the Navy has conducted a thorough evaluation of potential alternatives, including some suggested by federal, state, and local agencies, tribal governments, and the public during the scoping phase and during stakeholder meetings. Some of these alternatives include:
Continuing training at the Fallon Ranges in the current configuration
Relocating activities to other bases or ranges
Reconfiguring (resizing or moving) the boundaries of the Fallon Ranges
Redistributing training activities within the Fallon Ranges
Shifting target areas and associated danger zones
For each potential alternative, the Navy has examined whether the proposed scenario and concept would be feasible and would meet the purpose of and need for the action, as well as screening factors. This evaluation will be included in the Draft EIS, proposed for public release mid-2018.
13. Has the Navy considered shifting or shrinking the bombing ranges to minimize impacts on the public?
The Navy has considered reconfiguring, shifting, and/or shrinking range boundaries, including target areas and respective danger zones, to reduce impacts on the public.
The Navy is considering an alternative bombing range alignment that has been shifted and tilted as compared to the Proposed Action. This alternative was developed based on feedback received from the public, stakeholders, and cooperating agencies. More information about this alternative will be presented in the Draft EIS, anticipated for public release in fall 2018.
Reducing the size of the bombing ranges was determined to not be a feasible alternative. Department of Defense policy requires a 99.99 percent containment policy for air-to-ground munitions for safety purposes. Decreasing this containment probability would decrease the size of a weapons danger zone, but would increase the level of risk to the public of a direct impact. The Navy made a threshold determination to propose the smallest expansion that would still meet tactically acceptable requirements.
14. How were the boundaries determined for the Dixie Valley Training Area proposed withdrawal?
The size and shape of the proposed withdrawal area for the Dixie Valley Training Area was primarily determined by the training needs for that range and the safety of the public, military personnel, and civilian employees within and next to the Fallon Ranges.
The aviation training conducted at the Dixie Valley Training Area requires that the airspace above Navy-controlled land is clear of aviation safety hazards—such as cables, wires, and cultural lighting (from cities, streets, and infrastructure).
15. What does land withdrawal mean?
A “land withdrawal” removes an area of federal land from settlement, sale, location, or entry under some or all of the general land laws.
Land withdrawals are usually intended to limit activities and reserve the area for a particular public purpose or program. In this case, the withdrawal would be to reserve land for military use.
16. Would the Proposed Action further restrict public access to the Fallon Ranges?
Keeping the public and military personnel safe is of utmost importance to the Navy. The Navy allows access to certain training areas, but restrictions to bombing ranges must occur due to the hazardous nature of activities. The majority of Navy-managed lands are already closed to the public for safety reasons.
The Navy understands the importance of public access for commercial and recreational uses, and is considering alternatives that would allow managed access to certain areas for certain uses.
For the Dixie Valley Training Area, both new land proposed for withdrawal and the currently withdrawn land would be open to certain land uses, such as recreation or cattle grazing.
17. Does the Navy have the right to close land that is currently open to the public?
The U.S. Congress has the authority to approve a proposed withdrawal of federal land. If such approval is granted, it would effectively close the area(s). The Navy would be granted authority for land management through legislation.
As part of its proposed withdrawal action that would be considered by Congress, the Navy is analyzing options to allow public access for certain uses in specified areas when ranges are not operational. For safety reasons, the public would not be authorized within danger zones on bombing ranges due to potentially hazardous ordnance activities.
The Navy anticipates continuing to allow public access to the Dixie Valley Training Area; however, some uses would likely need to have restrictions for safety.
18. How can the Navy ensure public safety during training activities, including those using explosives?
To ensure safety and allow for realistic training, the Navy implements safety measures and would continue to apply them in proposed withdrawal areas. Safety planning includes:
Restricting public access from hazardous ordnance activities (fencing off the bombing ranges)
Ensuring target areas are unoccupied prior to ordnance activities; ranges used for these activities would be closed and restricted from public use
Conducting routine clean up and environmental stewardship of the training ranges
Working with local communities on compatible land use development
19. How would the Navy acquire private property?
The Navy would offer fair market value to purchase non-federal lands.
The Navy would make all reasonable efforts to acquire these properties through a mutually agreeable transaction.
20. How would the Proposed Action affect commercial airlines or civil aviation?
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Aeronautical Study will analyze the impacts on commercial and general aviation.
The Navy has a long-standing working relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is a cooperating agency on this EIS.
The Navy would ensure that medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) flights continue to receive priority over training events. The Federal Aviation Administration mandates priority for MEDEVAC flights in the air traffic control system. Civilian air ambulance, air carrier, and air taxi flights responding to medical emergencies would continue to be expedited whenever necessary. Proposed airspace modifications would not change how MEDEVAC flights are handled.
21. Why can't the Navy and Air Force use one range?
The Navy considered numerous alternatives to move aviation and ground training activities in whole or in part to other Department of Defense installations and ranges within the continental U.S. and abroad, such as Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Nevada Test and Training Range, and Utah Test and Training Range.
While these installations and ranges could support some training, their current missions would effectively deny the Navy the necessary capacity to support the required tempo and level of training unless: (1) the activities currently conducted at these locations were displaced, or (2) these ranges were significantly expanded. The Navy has determined that these two options are not reasonable.
22. Who decides on the alternatives and the implementation of the Proposed Action?
The Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment will sign a Record of Decision identifying the Navy’s selected alternative.
Congress must approve any land withdrawal before the selected alternative is implemented.
The Federal Aviation Administration is the decision maker on all airspace proposals.
23. Who is the Navy coordinating with on the proposed modernization?
The Navy is coordinating with several federal, state, and local agencies in the development of the EIS, in addition to providing opportunities for the public to review and comment. (The next opportunity for the public to provide substantive input will be mid-2018 with the public release of the Draft EIS.)
Fourteen agencies are serving as “cooperating agencies” on this EIS. A cooperating agency is any agency, other than the lead agency, which has jurisdiction by law or special expertise concerning an environmental impact involved in a proposal. Cooperating agencies for the modernization effort include:
Bureau of Land Management
Federal Aviation Administration
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Nevada Department of Wildlife
Nevada Department of Agriculture
Nevada Division of Minerals
Nevada Department of Transportation
Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy
The Navy is also consulting with the State Historic Preservation Office and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, and has invited Government-to-Government consultations with 17 federally recognized Native American Tribes and one Tribal Council.
24. How long does this process take?
The EIS process is expected to be completed with the issuance of a Final EIS in 2020.
The Navy’s proposal also requires completion of the Federal Aviation Administration’s rulemaking process for special use airspace.
The withdrawal of federal lands would begin once Congress has authorized the withdrawal and the Navy has signed a Record of Decision. An anticipated decision date for Congress and the Navy is in 2020.
The acquisition of non-federal lands would begin following Congressional approval, Navy decision making, and the authorization and appropriation of funds for this action.
25. How do I participate in the decision-making process?
The Navy encourages the public’s participation
in this process. Input from the public and government agencies allows Navy decision makers to make more-informed decisions.
The Navy sought public input during the scoping process (Aug. 26, 2016, through Dec. 12, 2016) on the “scope” of the analysis, including environmental issues and potential viable alternatives.
With the release of the Draft EIS, anticipated in fall 2018, the Navy will request public and tribal review and comment on the environmental analysis of potential impacts.
The Navy is committed to keeping the public informed throughout the environmental impact analysis process. Please review the information provided on this website, attend public meetings, submit comments during public comment periods, or
sign up here to receive future notifications
26. What does the Navy do to protect cultural resources found on Navy-managed land?
The Navy has prepared various cultural resource management plans, including an Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan, to protect and manage the cultural resources at the Fallon Ranges. The Navy also employs a cultural resources manager to coordinate with state and federal agencies and federally recognized tribes.
The Navy works closely with local tribes on mutual interests.
The Navy participates in a Programmatic Agreement with the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Bureau of Land Management, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to identify, evaluate, and treat historic properties on Navy-managed land. This agreement ensures protection of cultural resources and promotes coordination between the Navy and the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office.
27. What guidelines does the Navy follow to protect natural resources at the Fallon Ranges?
Maintaining the health of habitats and wildlife ensures the preservation of native landscapes and allows military training to be conducted in a realistic setting.
Under the Sikes Act, the Navy is required to implement an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP) and has done so for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources. The Navy has professional natural resource managers on staff to manage the natural resources at the Fallon Ranges.
The management strategies provided in the INRMP have been developed in cooperation and concurrence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Nevada Department of Wildlife, and help to ensure the balance of military readiness activities with natural resources management. The INRMP includes management programs for:
Aquatic and terrestrial habitat
Special natural areas
Outdoor recreation and agricultural outleases
The Navy would manage any new withdrawn or purchased lands in accordance with these guidelines.