The Army intends to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in increments, acquiring the first 250,000 additional acres between 2009 and 2013, according to a memorandum delivered to Colorado's congressional delegation on Friday.
The memo, from Assistant Army Secretary Keith Eastin, gives a general outline of the Army's goals in its controversial effort to add 418,000 acres to the training area southwest of La Junta. The current training site is 238,000 acres that straddles the Purgatoire River.
Most notably, the memo said the federally owned Comanche National Grasslands acreage north of Pinon Canyon - a checkerboard of nearly 180,000 acres - is a potential alternative to buying other private land, but that acquiring property from willing sellers remains the Army's first goal.
While Fort Carson officials have talked in the past about piecing together a larger training area from non-contiguous land around the maneuver site, the Army memo dismisses that idea. "This alternative does not leverage existing Army installations and facilities to support training, nor does it meet all doctrinal requirements," the memo said.
As for the Comanche Grassland acreage, the memo said that land would be evaluated for its suitability during the formal environmental study, which is expected to take between 18 months and two years to complete.
Responding to a query from Allard, the memo said the Army also will conduct an economic impact study as part of that environmental evaluation. Allard has told the Army he wants the economic analysis done to evaluate, among other things, the impact of taking another 418,000 acres off the public tax rolls of the affected counties.
"At this time, the Army and Fort Carson does not know if any additional jobs will result from the proposed expansion," the memo said. "If new positions are created, they would likely be in the area of range operations, land rehabilitation, facility maintenance, or environmental management and may not be filled locally."
Allard said he was pleased the Army would do an economic analysis.
"Since this process has begun, I have heard many concerns regarding the economic impacts that the expansion of Pinon Canyon may have on Southeastern Colorado," he said in a statement Friday. "Losses in tax revenue can affect Colorado's smaller, rural counties in a devastating way and I want to be sure the Army is considering these factors."
Fort Carson officials have emphasized the environmental study is a lengthy process that calls for multiple public hearings. The memo said the Army intends to have less formal meetings with the public as well, with the first tentatively scheduled for this spring.
While Fort Carson commanders have talked about the potential of using leasing agreements and even grazing agreements with landowners, as a way to use land without having to purchase it, the memo said the Army will consider that on a case-by-case basis as a supplement to land purchases. As for allowing grazing on the larger training site, the memo said that possibility will be reviewed during the environmental study.
PCEOC talking points in opposition:
Number One: There is one element of truth in the 'Information Paper'. We should believe them when they speak of the Pinon Canyon site and advise that "if new positions are created," "they may not be filled locally."
Number Two: While this is basically the same rhetoric we have been getting all along there are a few things in the referenced 'Information Paper' that we hope everyone understands. Besides the usual Pentagon propaganda, this paper is also just further evidence that they say one thing and do something entirely different.