To the editor:
As a third generation landowner/agent in the former Camp Bowie, I feel compelled to expand the editorial published in the Brownwood Bulletin, Sunday, April 29. Yes, we Texans are blessed with strong private property rights due to our heritage, history, vision and sacrifices of past and present generations to preserve our strong ties to the land. Yes, we know there are residual items which have the potential to be dangerous and yes, accidents can happen; nobody wants an incident resulting in loss of life or limb. And yes, of course I believe each of us has an obligation to work with local authorities to minimize this risk with the key word being “local authorities.”
I commend the Corps of Engineers personnel that I had contact with as they conducted themselves with courtesy and professionalism. One thing everyone needs to understand — this FUDS project and any proposed expansion of the existing training area are two completely different issues. I, for one, am not convinced that the U.S. Department of Defense will not refocus their attentions on us once they are less distracted by the war in Iraq. Most certainly there are clues and ensuing reasons and that issue definitely warrants addressing in the near future. The Corps Project Manager made it clear to me they would not be privileged to expansion information; they are only doing the job authorized by Congress.
Anyone who has an interest in this project should read the formal report in its entirety (including the editorial staff). Unfortunately, vital information was not addressed at this meeting due to lack of access, both online and at the Brownwood Library. The online site (http://formercampbowie.com) was inaccessible until the day before the meeting and it was determined at the meeting a review copy was not available from the library. I speak formally only for my family property. There are numerous reasons to continue working with local authorities as opposed to the alternative.
The most obvious reason is that we spoke loud and clear by not participating in the survey which should be sufficient to cease the efforts. Second, in the Corps Project Report, it appears their recommendation is a thorough clean-up of the surface and subsurface, resulting in a cost of approximately $46 million! I cannot fathom how spending $46 mil is cost effective for a project the majority of affected landowners do not want anyway. Considering the many challenges our great country has, that money could be much better served elsewhere.
Lastly, I believe most people understand that a significant part of our local economy is funded by hunting. By clear cutting up to 100,000 acres to do a thorough job of subsurface removal of leftover ordnance, will result in removing the very reason our harvest is bountiful now. Our native pastures provide abundant food and cover for the wildlife that draws hunters from around the country - hunters who boost our economy. It does not address this in the report and I will be glad to accept correction if they can do the clearing without this drastic measure.
I want to end this letter with recognition to the fourth generation of my family and the future landowner/agent of our property. He is my nephew, a 2001 graduate of Brownwood High School, currently serving his second tour as a combat soldier with the 1st Cavalry in Iraq. To him and all others who risk so much, thank you for putting your lives on the line so we can have intelligent, democratic discussions and still have the right to say NO if we do not agree.
Robert J. Quick