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Native Americans seek to halt US war games

By Virginia Warner Brodine, People's Weekly World,
7 October 1995

The U.S. Army is discovering that war games can have more than imaginary enemies. Operation Cascade Sage, the largest training maneuvers ever scheduled at the 260,000 acre Yakima Training Center (YTC) in Central Washington was announced with the usual public relations bugles blowing. The games would involve 12,000 men, 2,975 wheeled vehicles and 224 tracked vehicles, plus aircraft. The war would be launched in October.

Having successfully fought off a public campaign that sought to keep the Army from acquiring a 62,000 acre expansion of the YTC, the generals probably expected no trouble. However, when Congress agreed to the expansion, they laid down rules to guide the Army's use of the area.

Now the Ellensburg mayor, a Kittitas County Commissioner and the regional director of the State Fish and Wildlife Agency all say the integrated training and land use plan that Congress requires prior to war games has not been completed. The Yakima Nation is going beyond mere protest and is filing in federal court for an injunction to halt all training exercises until the Army's required plan is complete.

The expansion area was carved out of Kittitas County. Both Mayor Molly Edson and Commissioner Don Sorenson are members of the Congressionally-established YTC Cultural and Natural Resources Committee. The Fish and Wildlife Agency, also represented on the CNRC, is concerned particularly about survival of endangered sage grouse on the YTC.

The Yakima Nation was a key component of the effort to block the expansion which included land traditionally used by the tribes. It withdrew its opposition when the land was promised to them after it is used for military purposes.

In 1993 the Tribal Council signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Army which guaranteed protection of its cultural and natural resources on training center land. The plan for such protection should be part of the training and land use plan.

The Army claims that it met the Congressional requirement with an interim plan filed with Congress two years ago. However, its own language introducing that interim plan, stated that it was the first step in preparing the comprehensive plan required by Congress.