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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Chapter Chair's Column
Army report trivializes environmental harm of Fort Hunter Liggett expansion
December 2007

The US Army’s plans to expand and construct new facilities at the 165,000-acre Fort Hunter Liggett in South Monterey County include adding up to 17,000 additional soldiers and their dependents. This expansion is particularly disappointing because Congress authorized a study of the base for resource protection in 1999. In 1995 the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission recommended that parts of Hunter Liggett were not needed by the Army, opening the door for possible purchase or management of some areas by the National Park Service.

Many hikers are familiar with Fort Hunter Liggett because it is convenient to pass through the base on the way to parts of Los Padres Forest such as Indians, Escondido Camp, and Junipero Serra Peak.

The Resource Protection study released in 2004 found the following:

• The Milpitas Hacienda designed by Julia Morgan has national historic significance.

• The oak savanna landscape provides one of the few remaining vestiges of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

• Over 600 archaeological sites related to Native Americans have been recorded at Fort Hunter Liggett.

• There is an unusually large number of rare and sensitive plant species on the base including over 72,000 acres of oak woodland and savanna, a wide diversity of native oaks, and critical habitat for the rare and threatened purple amole, a native herb.

• The base provides critical habitat for tule elk, the San Joaquin kit fox, and other species.

• Riparian areas and vernal pools on the base support special species such as Santa Lucia mint, arroyo toad, and bald eagle.

In August, with the ramping up of the Bush Administration’s military agenda, the Army released the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the base’s expansion. This document trivialized or ignored the potential environmental damage that could occur on this unique property if the expansion goes forward. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2008.

If you have an interest in protecting this unique national treasure, please contact your Congressional Representative and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

—Rita Dalessio

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