Gov. Richardson and U.S. Air Force agree to expand the Melrose Bombing Range

File photo Gov. Bill Richardson and U.S. Air Force Assistant Secretary William C. Anderson agreed to an expansion of the Melrsoe Bombing Range.

Freedom New Mexico staff

SANTA FE — The state and the Air Force agreed during a meeting this week to move forward with the expansion of Cannon Air Force Base.

The proposed expansion will transfer land from the State Land Office to the U.S. Air Force to expand the Melrose Bombing Range, according to a press release from Gov. Bill Richardson’s office.

Richardson worked with the Legislature in 2007 to secure $5 million toward land for Cannon’s expansion and to support new missions following the 2006 military base-closure process that threatened to shutter the eastern New Mexico base, according to the release.

A special operations wing took over command of the base in October, replacing a phased-out F-16 fighter wing.

The new mission puts Cannon in the vanguard of the war on terrorism and eventually will make the base larger.

The governor said the range’s expansion will help Cannon during future efforts to close bases.

“New Mexico is committed to being a strong partner with the Air Force to ensure a strong future of our bases,” he said.

The commander of Air Force Special Operations, Lt. Gen. Michael Wooley, said during ceremonies at Cannon in October that the 66,000-acre bombing range 25 miles west of the base was important for special operations training.

The Air Force considers it the crown jewel, he said.

The State of New Mexico, the Air Force and the State Land Office will examine the process in the next 30 days, the release said.

Federal and Air Force officials agreed to protect agricultural leases on state trust land, the release said.