The tireless efforts of the Gates County Citizens Against OLF have proven victorious. The Navy announced today that it is suspending its evaluation process to secure a site for the construction of an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) until 2014. An OLF is used for Navy pilots to practice landing in conditions similar to landing on an aircraft carrier, and Gates County is one of five counties in the northeastern NC area that the Navy had been evaluating as a potential site for the OLF.
SCSJ is representing Citizens Against OLF in Gates County. The group organized an anti-OLF boat parade in 2009 and have secured support from both North Carolina Senators, congressional representatives, the Governor, and other state elected officials. Citizens Against OLF is also leading a legal battle against the Navy.
A low-income, rural, significantly African-American community near the Virginia border in northeastern North Carolina, Gates County residents have been in opposition to the Navy constructing an OLF in their community or any of the surrounding communities for several years. Navy representatives have even stated publicly that an OLF is “not necessarily needed.” But the construction of an OLF would mean the loss and destruction of centuries-old family farms. In addition, Gates County is home to diverse and threatened species that are indigenous to North Carolina. These habitats would be permanently disrupted by the construction of an OLF.
The Navy’s announcement today shows that organized community pressure coupled with legal and media strategies can alter power towards the interests of the community.