Protecting Colorado's Ranchers: A Position on Pinon Canyon: As most ranchers and livestock operators in Colorado know, there is a great deal of concern about the Army's plans to expand the boundaries of Fort Carson's training facilities at Pinon Canyon in southern Colorado. It is not enough to oppose the use of eminent domain (condemnation) at Pinon Canyon. In an already fragile economy, it is not fair to add more pressure to landowners in the area. That is why we support the state legislative ban on the lease or transfer of state lands for expansion, why we support the Congressional moratorium on expansion activities and why we are opposed to the additional loss of productive land in agriculture and livestock production that would follow from Army expansion. It is important for the communities most impacted by the Army's planned expansion in Southern Colorado to have the ultimate say in whether they would agree to any expansion proposal. It has been clear to us that so far, communities in Southern Colorado are adamantly opposed to the loss of this land (even through leasing) and we believe Colorado's next Governor must stand with them.
We hope to see everyone at the comment meetings but there are also other ways to comment:
Comments by the public, government agencies, other appropriate
entities, and stakeholders may be submitted at the above-mentioned public
meetings or sent to the U.S. Army Environmental Command (USAEC) during the
applicable published comment period. Comments can be sent by e-mail to USARMY.JBSA.AEC.MBX@mail.mil or
mailed to: Public Comments USAEC, Attn: IMPA — AE (Kropp), 2450 Connell Road
(Building 2264), Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234-7664. For questions regarding
comment submittals, call (210) 466-1590.
GAO study slams Army on Pinon Canyon expansion - Rocky Mt. News Article
The Rocky Mountain News Published January 13, 2009 at 12:09 p.m. Updated January 13, 2009 at 12:09 p.m.
WASHINGTON - A new Government Accountability Office study criticizes the U.S. Army's approach to the proposed expansion of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in Colorado, saying a lack of early communication with nearby residents allowed rumors to run rampant.
The report, one of two being released today in response to congressional requests, also says the army's land acquisition approach is based on out-of-date strategic plans, and recommends periodic updates as well as new methods of keeping members of the public informed.
The Pentagon has faced vocal opposition from some residents of the area south of Fort Carson when word first spread that the army might be trying to add up to 418,577 acres of land to the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
Last summer, the army reported that it planned to limit the proposed expansion to 100,000 acres, but not before public outrage echoed by congressional opposition.
Congress asked the nonpartisan GAO to study what happened.
"Without adequate explanations, key stakeholders at times relied on rumors and leaked documents," one report concludes. "These information sources often did not provide a clear, complete or accurate explanation of the Army's need for and approach to acquiring additional land or of the Army's plans to also use other strategies to meet critical training needs."
In a written response, army officials called their approach to land acquisitions, including the one proposed for Piñon Canyon, were "fundamentally sound," but conceded that they would benefit from updating strategic plans and communicating more effectively.
Expansion would have drastic adverse effects on the livelihoods of hundreds of ranching families. But effects are not limited to them, although they will be the most directly impacted. The counties and communities surrounding the current PCMS depend on agriculture and ranching.
"Potential to use existing structures/utilities infrastructure supporting urban operations training." Analysis of Alternatives, Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, Apr. 2005. Might that be something that the Army has in mind for Kim High School, in Kim, Colorado? Does the Army really even need the land to train here? The school is still very much in use and the vibrant community of Kim is alive and well.
Entire cities and towns would be removed from existence, except as maybe urban warfare training sites.
It would totally devastate the local economies throughout the region, and would dry up the tax base that supports vital rural services, like fire, ambulance, law enforcement, and schools. There are about 50,000 people here who would be affected by this. While they state in their application to the DoD for acquisition approvals that there will 'only be 17,000 directly effected. Businesses and people dependent on those 17,000 people will be effected in Pueblo, Rocky Ford, Fowler, La Junta, Las Animas, Trinidad, Branson, Lamar, Springfield, as well as well into adjoining states. This is a large rural area, Agriculture is the engine of this economy and if you move the ranchers and farmers off their land you put those farms and ranches out of business.
And once those farms and ranches are out of business, they're likely to stay out of business, because of the current state of the economy - and land prices around the country -- it's virtually impossible for a landowner to pick up stakes and find a suitable amount of land anywhere else in the country to resume operations. They don't make 'new land' - we need to manage what resources we have - and so does the military.
When the farms and ranches go, so does about 40 percent of already struggling businesses profits. There’ll be trickle down economics alright, but not in a good way. Businesses will close, people will go bankrupt, and cities and towns whose economies rely on agriculture will die off economically. All this in an already hard hit region that’s trying to pick itself up and dust itself off from large industry closures and the loss of about 300 jobs.
To put that in perspective for you, that would equate to the loss of 20,000 jobs in the Denver metro area – But the Denver metro would still have its service infrastructure intact (fire, police, sanitation, etc.). That’s just the already lost jobs, not the impact of losing an additional 40 percent of your economy on top of that, creating more losses.
The region is already feeling an economic impact due to the proposed expansion as businesses, and people interested in purchasing property in the region (which would create jobs), have backed off because of the uncertainty of the situation. People in the region are not paying to have improvements or repairs made to their property while the axe of expansion hangs over their necks -- even further dampening economic prospects.
There is NO Plus Side to this at all for the communities and counties in the region which is why so many have come out in opposition to the expansion.
One thing needs to be made clear, even with no expansion to PCMS, Colorado Springs and Colorado itself will get troops and continue to benefit from Fort Carson and the influx of troops. The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) stated that there is adequate space at Fort Carson even without expansion of the current PCMS. Their own words say the destruction of SE Colorado isn’t necessary to get the troops to move to Fort Carson.
"The Commission’s independent and objective analysis showed that, with or without including Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in the accounting of acreage, Fort Carson still has more contiguous maneuver acres per brigade combat team than Fort Hood. The Commission views the UEx headquarters relocation to Fort Carson, CO, as important to provide the four planned BCTs with an appropriate-level command and control headquarters." BRAC COMMISSION FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY May 13, 2005
We're not trying to stop troops transferring to Fort Carson, or tell the Army they're not welcome in Colorado. We're just saying that the Army has plenty of land available to meet it's needs, and no expansion of the PCMS is necessary.
We ask everyone to join us and to push our leaders and legislators to rein in the DOD and hold them accountable. Let's stop these wasteful and destructive efforts to seize a huge portion of land in Colorado larger than the State of Connecticut. Click I CAN HELP to get started.