Regional
4:26 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Senators Introduce Bill To Create "Buffer Zone" Around White Sands; Fort Bliss

Credit Senator Martin Heinrich (D) New Mexico

  U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a bill to add buffer zones for White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss. This represents a three-party agreement between the two military installations and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 

"This bipartisan effort will help to add critical safety, security, and planning buffers to White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss, and it will play an integral role in accomplishing their national security missions," said Sen. Heinrich. "Establishing these buffer zones would provide predictability for installations and the community.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure our military installations and personnel have the best training and testing environments possible."

"This is a common sense, yet critical measure to ensure the national security missions of White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss can be carried out while protecting public safety," said Sen. Udall. "I'm pleased to join with Senators Heinrich and Cornyn in a bipartisan effort that will benefit our military and land managers."

"I'm proud to join my colleagues in supporting legislation that will allow Fort Bliss to protect vital training space for decades to come.  Preserving the use of this land for our Soldiers is key for ensuring the Army's ability to train and continue to carry out its mission," said Sen. Cornyn

By executing each part of this agreement through legislation at the same time, it will help facilitate the important work done by the military and NASA at White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss.

This bill allows the:

  • Transfer 5,100 acres of land from the BLM to the Army in order to provide a critical safety and security buffer to NASA's White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) and the Department of Defense's Aerospace Data Facility, which are both important tenants of White Sands Missile Range; 
  • Transfer 2,050 acres of land in Fillmore Canyon from the Army to the Bureau of Land Management to create a boundary that is more clearly identifiable to the public to prevent accidental trespass onto Ft. Bliss; and
  • It will preclude the BLM from selling or exchanging 35,550 acres of land in order to prevent incompatible development for the Fort Bliss Dona Ana Range Complex and Training Areas that include some of the Army's premier large weapons system firing ranges and artillery firing boxes. This land will still be accessible to the public for recreation, grazing, transportation, and other existing uses.

The text of the bill can be viewed here.