Pueblo Chieftain article:
Fort Carson troops take part in training exercises at Pinon Canyon in this file photo.
By PETER ROPER
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN

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.

Number Three: The 'Paper' suggests that the NEPA process will "provide the opportunity for extensive public comment."  So far our experience with NEPA has been a Draft EIS hearing that allowed three minutes per person to make comments, and a Stryker Scoping Workshop that allowed no verbal comment. The term "workshop" is misleading, as are many of the terms used by the Pentagon.

Number Four: The paper states the land acquisition need is due to the Army Transformation and that our "Soldiers, leaders, and units train under the most realistic conditions before they conduct combat and other operations."  Are we planning on taking over a large short grass prairie somewhere else in the world or is this taking in SE Colorado the actual practice they speak of?

Number Five: It also states there is a need for higher levels of training at their "home-station."  We have always maintained they should do that and to use the 'home-station' Fort Carson to do so.  Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site isn't part of Fort Carson, and even discussed as unneeded in the BRACC report.  Fort Carson and Colorado Springs will still get the troop expansion they want but it isn't necessary to destroy SE Colorado to allow that.
 
Number Six: There is a part in this 'Paper' about purchasing land that speaks of using "Friendly condemnation" or "willing condemnation" to "facilitate the transfer of land from that willing seller to the Army."  To that we would ask, what part of condemnation is "Friendly"?  The condemnation of generational families?  The condemnation of our short-grass prairies? The condemnation of entire communities?  The condemnation of our rights to own private property?  It is akin to the term "friendly fire".  Neither have acceptable endings.  We have a chance to change this though - if you were aware of a potential "friendly fire" incident in the making wouldn't you make every effort to stop it from happening?

Number Seven: They also speak of phased in acquisition, over a period of several years.  If someone cuts your legs off a little at a time does that make it more acceptable?  It sure isn't less painful.  This also smacks of the 20 year plan to take the entire southeast Colorado region that was referenced in the very first maps. The Pentagon and their ever changing stance - things that should make us all go hmmmmm??. 

Number Eight. There is a statement in the 'Information Paper' sent to Congress about public involvement also that, while not surprising, shows their indifference to any real input.  Either that or it shows their complete lack of ability to understand what public involvement truly is. 
"Public Involvement. The Army recognizes that the key to any successful Army land action is a comprehensive public outreach effort."  Funny they say 'land action' as if there is an assault in progress.  No need to get anyone's permission as far as they're concerned. 
 
Their 'outreach' to this point has been 3 minutes to comment at a DEIS process or a scoping meeting that didn't allow for any public comment.  Successful for them.  And no one could get access to the comments made at the public meeting without a federal court action.  They are only concerned with going through the motions and getting it and us out of the way.  If the Pentagon really seeks to maintain public trust and credibility then they would not be making excuses for why they can't reveal their intentions.  If they want our trust why are we having to secure information and documents by filing lawsuits in Federal court to have them comply with FOIA requests?
 
Our legislators are the only thing between our Pentagon and the ultimate condemnation of the American spirit and the American way of life.  And they are listening to us more and more! 

Number Nine. There is a statement in the paper that references the preparation of the Army to build to a specific goal force number of Active, National Guard, and Reserves.  It should be noted that the number they reference is the same as the number of forces maintained in 1996.  The PCMS wasn't used much then either.


Number 10. There is a statement in the paper that references the preparation for the Army to build to a (goal) force number of Active, National Guard, and Reserves. As if it is a significantly larger number than before. 
It should be noted however, that the number they reference is the same as the number of forces the US had ten years ago, in 1996.  The PCMS wasn't used much then either.