Shattered Skies | Sojourners

Shattered Skies

Nancy Hobbs and her husband, Jack, had a dream. Three years ago they bought a 100-acre farm at the end of a gravel road nestled in the gentle, rolling hills of southwest Wisconsin.

They raised a herd of Nubian goats and began to breed rare steers from France and mares from Scotland. Master gardeners, their goal was to create an English-style country estate that would also serve as a "learning center" for urban visitors.

But Nancy and Jack's idyllic dream has been shattered by low-flying Air National Guard cargo planes, which have caused their goats and cattle to stampede and their watchdog to cower in the barn.

"I can't deal with it anymore," Nancy Hobbs laments.

But this is only the beginning. If an Air National Guard proposal is approved, soon F-16s, B-52s, B-2 Stealth bombers, and other aircraft will conduct up to 2,150 low-level practice bombing runs annually up and down the picturesque Kickapoo Valley.

The Guard plan includes a 7,137-acre expansion of a bombing range at Volk Field, 80 miles northwest of Madison, Wisconsin; creation of two new low-level flight corridors in Wisconsin and Iowa; and increased use of an existing corridor running west into Minnesota.

Residents fear that the serenity and natural beauty of the region (home to several major wildlife refuges) will be threatened and tourism, farming, and other means of livelihood jeopardized by military jets roaring over the ridgetops. At least four coalitions have mobilized in Wisconsin and Iowa to oppose the plan.

The Ho-Chunk Indian tribe, which operates day care and senior centers and a casino near the range, has formed a coalition with local businesses, cranberry growers, and other non-Indians to thwart the expansion plan.

"Already our school children hit the floor in panic when the bombers approach the range so low and loud," said Ona Whitewing Garvin, a Ho-Chunk legislator. "Can you imagine the horrific impact on them and all forms of life if the range

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1996
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