WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, a bill sponsored by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and John Cornyn (R-TX) to strengthen the missions at White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss cleared the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Earlier this year, Senator Heinrich, a member of the committee, along with Senators Udall and Cornyn, introduced the bipartisan proposal that represents a three-party agreement between the two military installations and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
"This expansion to White Sands Missile Range is critical to strengthening its vital national security mission," said Sen. Heinrich. "Establishing safety, security, and planning buffers at White Sands and Fort Bliss will also provide predictability for these two military installations and the communities that surround them. I will continue to lead this effort with my colleagues and ensure these bipartisan provisions receive consideration and approval by the full Senate."
"White Sands Missile Range is a critical and valuable asset for New Mexico and for our national security. This commonsense bill helps strengthen that asset by setting aside an enduring buffer that clarifies the boundaries and protects them from incompatible development," said Sen. Udall. "This bill is an excellent example of how our defense and land management agencies can work together to find agreement that benefits all involved, including the surrounding community."
Executing each part of this agreement through legislation will help facilitate the important work done by the military and NASA at White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss, and will provide a comprehensive and enduring buffer for the total mission set in Doña Ana County.
This bill would:
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-Southwest, which are both key tenants of White Sands Missile Range;
Transfer 2,050 acres of land in Fillmore Canyon from the Army to the BLM to create a boundary that is more clearly identifiable to the public to prevent accidental trespass onto Fort Bliss; and
Prohibit the BLM from selling, exchanging, or developing 35,550 acres of land in order to prevent incompatible development near the Fort Bliss Dona Ana Range Complex and Training Areas which 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.