U.S. Forest Service, South Dakota Could Benefit from Military Cutbacks
Our divided political party congressional delegation, agree on an issue. Senators Thune(R), and Johnson(D), and Congresswoman Noem(R), have sent a letter to the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Tom Tidwell, encouraging him to use, soon to be retired, Air Force C-27J Spartan transport airplanes to fight wildland fires in South Dakota and surrounding states.
In the letter, all three agree the 21 C-27Js, retrofitted for fire supression, could be a great asset to the Forest Service. They also agree the best home base for many of these planes would be Ellsworth Air Force Base outside of Rapid City, South Dakota.
The Forest Service has the legal authority to ask the Air Force for the surplus planes. Our delegation is asking for an evaluation of the craft for fire fighting purposes, and how such a plane might fit into future needs of the Forest Service. They offer assistance of their offices to help.
There are many pluses here: The U.S. Military has to cut back billions of dollars in operational costs over the next decade; The Forest Service has used older planes in the past; Some have crashed due to mechanical failure; The upper midwest and mountain states are in a drought; Fires are certain to happen; Aircraft can help suppress them; and finally planes housed at Ellsworth help secure the future of that isolated military base.
The drought, coupled with the pine beetle infestation in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado make this idea worth exploring