Jack Betts weighs in on OLF

If you spend any time at all looking at the US Navy's proposal to train jet pilots adjacent to the National Wildlife Refuge near Edenton, you can't help but get angry. There are so many things wrong with this idea, as I've written here and here. But one of the most alarming problems is the potential devastation of hundreds of family farms.

Jack Betts of the Charlotte Observer recently wrote an inspiring column on that issue. I'm posting the entire piece here, with his permission.

Navy gets a fight over amber waves of grain
Families don't want an outlying landing field in rural N.C. farmland


PLYMOUTH - A cold, hard January rain hammered on the sheet-metal roof of Myra and Jerry Beasley's barn on their wide, flat farm on the Washington-Beaufort county line Thursday night.

It was the sort of nasty night that ought to have kept folks home by the wood stove, but these are tough people. Over the past five years they've fought the Navy to a standstill in a legal battle to halt the creation of a practice landing field in the middle of some of the best farmland in northeastern North Carolina.

The Navy wants to build the field so F/A-18 SuperHornet jet pilots can practice day and nighttime aircraft carrier landings.

But the farm families of the rural enclave don't want to lose the land, some of it in their families for generations. And they worry the jets will collide with some of the hundreds of thousands of large migratory waterfowl that live in a nearby wildlife refuge and feed in the farm fields half of each year.

Wildlife biologists report a record number of tundra swans and snow geese in the refuge this year. Many of them spend their nights on the water of nearby Pungo Lake and in daylight fly to nearby fields to glean them of corn and soybeans left from the fall harvest.

"This is their home," says Wilt Howell, a small grains and corn farmer. Some of the Howell clan came to the Beasleys' barn for an annual winter gathering to talk about plans for their campaign against the Navy. So far they have forced the Navy to halt buying land for the outlying landing field and revise an environmental impact statement that U.S. District Judge Terry Boyle said was inadequate.

The Navy may unveil its revised environmental statement in late winter. Farmers, conservationists, outdoors enthusiasts and environmentalists in Washington and Beaufort counties who oppose the OLF have tried to persuade political leaders that there are better places within North Carolina to construct it. They haven't gotten very far getting elected leaders in Raleigh and Washington to listen.

But what rips these generally conservative rural folks is any suggestion that their opposition is somehow anti-military, or anti-American, or ungodly. These are flag-waving folks. Many of them served in the Army, Navy or Marines. They're churchgoers who pray before meals and who post signs in front of the houses urging passers-by to pray for their deliverance from the OLF.

The Beasley barn was festooned with red, white and blue candles and table decorations and red, blue and silver garlands. It was part pep rally, part church service, part dinner-on-the-grounds and as genuine as anything ever made in America.

It started with a prayer from Wilt Howell's brother Fred and ended with a memorable version of The Lord's Prayer sung by a big man named Larry Norman. But when Jerry and Myra Beasley's son Kevin stood up before the crowd, the barn got really quiet for the first time all night.

"I am 11 years old. This barn where we are standing tonight was built on land owned by my family for five generations," Kevin said. His parents, neighbors and friends had worked hard to protect the region, he said.

"Since the age of 6 I have been with my parents to many OLF meetings, local and far away. I have seen the joy on my parents' faces when so many people reunited together to help us save our land and wildlife," he said, but he had also seen their tears when the Navy continued to press to build the OLF.

"I ask you to help me to keep my family and my friends from enduring this battle any longer. ... Please help me take this message back to Senators Dole, and Burr, Congress and our state leadership, and tell them to stop this wrong. And lastly, please, help me and my friends to keep the freedom that allows us to follow in our parents' footsteps so we can continue to keep our family-farms alive."

I don't know what kind of a chance the Navy would have if it had to debate Kevin Beasley about the OLF. But I do know who would have the crowd eating out of his 11-year-old hands.


Jack's email address is at the bottom of the article (follow the link above). Please send him a note thanking him for keeping this issue front-and-center in the mainstream press.


Pay special attention to this paragraph in Betts' column:

The Navy may unveil its revised environmental statement in late winter. Farmers, conservationists, outdoors enthusiasts and environmentalists in Washington and Beaufort counties who oppose the OLF have tried to persuade political leaders that there are better places within North Carolina to construct it. They haven't gotten very far getting elected leaders in Raleigh and Washington to listen.

From all I've been able to learn, there are only two elected leaders anywhere who are working on this issue, Congressman Price and Congressman Butterfield - and God bless them both. Because the rest of our elected officials are either standing by silently or complicit in this unfolding disaster.

Before you support ANY candidate in North Carolina politics, make sure you know where they stand on the OLF. Ask Richard Moore and Beverly Perdue where they stand. Ask all the candidates for Lieutenant Governor where they stand. Ask anyone running for the NC Legislature where they stand.

But don't bother to our two senators from the Party of Greed. They stand with the Navy against the hard-working farmers of North Carolina.


Contact info

for Perdue & Moore? This should be a major issue in the primary, if they are both running for governor. (I know, I could look up that info myself, but if someone happens to have it handy, it would be appreciated.)

Their official offices

It's hard to find the best way to reach them without going through their official offices. These email addresses might work.

Perdue: tatecjohnson at hotmail.com

Moore: richardmoore at richardmoore.org

Use @ instead of "at", of course.

Let us know what you find out?

From an email I received

Sorry, no links.

A military aircraft participating in a training exercise crashed Thursday afternoon in Northern Mississippi. Officials with Columbus Air Force Base said the accident happened at 1:30pm Thursday afternoon approximately 10 miles west of Batesville on Curtis Road, near Highway 6. The crash occurred in an extremely remote area of Panola County, a place where military jets frequently fly training missions.

But on this training mission, the student got a much different lesson.
Military and medical personnel rushed to the crash scene of a T-38 jet in a remote area of Panola County …

… Investigators say the pilot and trainee ejected moments before the T-38 went down. “I asked one of the pilots what happened. He said a flock of geese flew up and they went down,” said land owner Kevin Locke.

That's virtually guaranteed to happen if the Navy sites its landing field in a place that looks like this:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here's an article

about that crash. (Hope that works, I've never done that "linky" thing before.) This artice does not include your quote about the geese, but it does reference geese as a possible cause of the crash.

Here's a list of significant bird and other wildlife strikes involving both military and civilian aircraft.

I have e-mailed both Perdue and Moore, will let you know what response I get (if any).

Good job, CD!

I remember my first ever "link" about three years ago. It was so exciting . . . and I haven't progress much beyond that still.


Thanks for the bird strike link, too. What's interesting about this case is that the Air Force has a whole department that studies bird strikes, and they said this site was completely unacceptable no matter how you look at it. The Navy has no department for looking at bird strikes, and apparently has adopted the Ostrich Model of Analysis.

Thank you Jack

Thanks for writing on this issue and thanks for giving permission to re-post here at BlueNC for wider distribution and public information. I just hope it won't affect your Capital Press Corps credentials ;)

I bet they throw him out.

Not only is he associating with the peanut gallery, he's also having o-pinions. Yikes!

I like Jack Betts

He's a good egg.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I don't know Jack..

...but I like him. Not many can breath new life into the "Twas a dark and stormy night" opener. I'm a good ham.

Good Ham, Indeed :)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.


Beverly Perdue: "I am against the Washington County site for the OLF...I have done all I can do to help."
Comment:It is amazing how much time and effort she has excerted to help North Carolina during the BRAC process. Getting North Carolina military money is all she talks about.

Richard Morgan: ?

Joe Hackney: 100% behind the efforts to stop the Navy

Marc Basnight: Lip service, has written a couple of letters no real efforts. And the OLF is in his district. It makes you wonder what is in it for him. If he really wanted to help he could take the lead to organize the Gen. Assembly to pass a resolution aginst the Navy.

Dole: Written a letter agianst the OLF in Washington Co. No real effort. She is on the Armed Service Committee, and rumor has it that she is the one who endorsed it. A D.C. rumor.

Butterfield: New on the block, Congressional speech, written letters, has worked with David Price to help pull funding. This is his opportunity to come out as a leader.

Basically we have had a tremendous amount of lip service with nothing showing a united front to stop the Navy from destroying the Albemarle Region.

During the Brac process last year, Virginia Beach almost lost NAS Oceana. The Virginia Pilot ran pictures of John Warner,Sen Allen, the Mayor of VBeach, Governor Allen and a couple of others standing as a united front to protect THEIR citizens. Where is our protection? Where is our united front?

Excellent comment

Maybe we need to all put a little pressure on Basnight.

A little encouragement to Butterfield would be nice and some gentle nudging (sledge hammer variety) for the rest of our Democrats who will want to remain in office in 2008 would probably be a good thing. Also.....LTE team needs to be activated again. Hmmmm....I'll get on that.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Thanks SD

I'm slammed today, but if you can help get the ball rolling . . .

Basnight needs some contactin'

So do Moore and Perdue and Easley and Cooper


PS I think this is the Jennifer I wrote about . . .

Duh....I didn't make the connection

not enough coffee in the world today. Not a problem. I'll get that all together. I'll email the LTE team members and we'll have it all pulled together and letters out before the end of the week. I'll get contact info out today.

Work, man....you have a family to feed. :)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.


Beverly Perdue "...I have done all I can do to help".... any idea what she has done?

I guess Sen. Dole has less clout than her years in government service would indicate and that earned her the nickname "the iron glove" would imply, or is that Less interested in a "handfull" of votes from the people, to quote the navy, "in the middle of nowhere". Only when our officials want to do the right and logical solution to this absurd idea of the OLF in washington Co. or they think it will garner them more votes than supporting it will they come to their senses and support the NO OLF by doing anything than give it lip service. Let them hear that people DO oppose the OLF in Washington County.

Hey Becky!

Thanks for posting . . . sounds like you know what this is all about from the front lines.

I've heard lots of horror stories about Dole basically selling out the county in a deal with John Warner in the Senate. I don't think it's just that she's incompetent, she's actually been trying to help the Navy run roughshod over North Carolina from what I can tell.

Welcome to BlueNC!

No-OLF questions

The No-OLF folks have written thousands of letters and have made three times as many calls.

If you do a history rewind: Yalta
Powerful people cloistered away from the fray carving up Eastern Europe.

Eastern North Carolina is being sliced, diced, and divided up
by the people we elected to protect our rights. And please note: Sec. of the Navy Hansford T. Johnson who signed the record of decision in 2003 is being investigated because his company illegally billed the U. S. Government millions of dollars for work it never performed in Iraq.

I have been told many times there is a "bigger picture" to the OLF. What might the "bigger picture" entail?

Why does the Navy insist on maintaining a master jet base in the middle of a resort city? Other cities are more suitable and are actively vying for the opportunity to host one.

Why won't the Navy accept other sites offered to them by the state of North Carolina that would not destroy this pristine region?

Why are so many political leaders of North Carolina willing to allow this willful destruction?

What will ultimately become of this region if the Navy prevails?
Fast forward: Think of vast open spaces where wildlife runs freely, and Americans are still permitted to retain their homes and work their land. Could it be possible that if the Navy gets their foothold and takes 50 square miles of land from hard working Americans, many people are waiting in the wings for the opportunity to turn this region into strip malls, multi unit dwellings, highways and industrial complexes. And of course lets not forget the Navy Admirals would not have to leave their mansions located on the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach. Could that be the bigger picture?