Nellis Exhibit Postponed Due to Security Concerns
Violence in the Middle East Impact CLUI Exhibit Schedule

THE CENTER'S EXHIBIT ABOUT THE Nellis Range, the largest restricted groundspace in the United States, scheduled for the Fall of 1998, has been postponed until the Fall of 1999, due primarily to security concerns resulting from recent conflicts between the United States and Islamic groups and nations.

"Due to increased range usage and a heightened security posture because of recent terrorist activities, we have had to reconsider your request for range access," states a letter to the CLUI from Colonel Wilhelm F. Percival, Commander of the Range Management Office at Nellis Air Force Base. At a meeting with Colonel Percival and other range managers, CLUI director Matthew Coolidge became convinced that the Air Force was not immediately going to cooperate with the Center and its requests for access to the range in order to obtain photographs for the exhibit and accompanying book.

"Originally we were going to call the exhibit 'The Landscape of Conjecture,' because so little is known about the range outside of a small circle of Air Force and contractor personnel, sworn to secrecy," said Mr. Coolidge, "but when the range administrators finally offered to support the project by releasing information to us and offering a three-day tour of the range for photography, we changed the working title to something less speculative."

But the change was premature, as access was later denied, just days before the visit was to take place. The title of the exhibit remains The Landscape of Conjecture until, and if, the military allows members of The Center to see for themselves what is and is not out on the range, and to emerge with photographs to present to the public.

Since World War II, this Connecticut-sized chunk of southern Nevada has been closed to outsiders. As a result, a sort of landscape museum has evolved. Parts of the range are frozen in 1940, untouched by scavengers, vandals, and industry. Other parts of the range, meanwhile, have been heavily transformed by some of the most unusual and high-impact land use imaginable. For example, a mock Soviet landscape, complete with industrial areas, airbases, and radar and missile sites was developed on the northern range, used for military training, including bombing with live ordnance.

And then there is Area 51. "We rarely spoke of that most sensitive place throughout our negotiations with the Air Force," said Coolidge, "That subject goes nowhere. It's useless to push it beyond asking if the official position regarding Groom Lake has changed." Area 51 remains in some ways the heart of the Landscape of Conjecture, inspiring a variety of interpretations. However, it is just one small piece of a vast complex of unusual, perplexing, and misunderstood land uses.

"We can do the exhibit with or without Air Force cooperation," Coolidge concludes. "It's just better for them, us, and the public to have a more evolved understanding of what goes on out there."