Army faces roadblocks on Pinon Canyon expansion

DENVER — Congress has approved a plan that would bar the U.S. Army from expanding into the prairielands of Pinon Canyon, along with a backup plan that would require the Army to complete an environmental impact study and receive federal money if the project ever goes forward.

The measure still needs Senate approval.

According to the Denver Post, local residents have complained for years that the threat of an Army training expansion has depressed land values and disrupted plans for land improvement. Colorado lawmakers want a permanent solution.

“It’s not a year-to-year fix. It’s not a five-year fix. It’s the furthest we’ve ever gotten,” said U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, who represents the area and carried the measure in the House.

Pinon Canyon is a 235,000-acre Army training site in southern Colorado that is adjacent to prairie important to farmers and ranchers.

Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall have, in the past, urged the Army to promise that the land would be untouched.

Two years ago, Army Secretary John McHugh gave them a five-year letter of agreement that the Army wouldn’t seek additional funding for development in the area.

Bennet’s office said Monday that they’ve had that five-year promise letter renewed every year.

The Army said in March that it will probably cancel plans for large-unit training at the Pinon Canyon range this year because of the federal budget gridlock and the automatic budget cuts of $85 billion in federal spending.

David Grosso, garrison commander at Fort Carson, told Las Animas County officials that a compromise is possible.

In 2006, ranchers confronted Fort Carson officials over plans to vastly expand the training area. Some of those families still were bitter over the Army condemning and acquiring their lands in the early 1980s when Pinon Canyon was created.


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