by Brian Orr
SOUTHEAST CO- In a surprise move, the Army announced last week it was changing its plan of pursuing 414,000 acres to expand its Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site to a smaller 100,000 acres-tract directly south of the military base.
The Army noted that the scaled-back version of the expansion would not adequately address the full training requirement for Ft. Carson soldiers, leaving the door open for another future round of expansion.
Craig Walker, who owns the majority of the 100,000 acres in the Army’s new area of interest, has repeatedly stated in the past he would not sell his land. In a recent carefully worded press release, he indicated he may be softening his stance.
The army, which wants to fast-track the process of expansion in the next two years, has not ruled out the use of eminent domain to take the land it wants. Twenty five years ago, the Army used eminent domain to get 238,000 acres for the current PCMS.
Opposition groups to PCMS’s expansion immediately condemned the Army’s change of plans, stating the amount of land the Army wanted was immaterial. “No matter what size the Pentagon is talking about, we believe in no expansion and no money for expansion,” a spokesman said.
Lon Robertson, a Kim area rancher and a leader of the Piñon Canon Expansion Opposition Coalition, called the Army’s revised plans an attempt to get the stalled expansion underway, despite the objections of local residents, businesses, governments, and a one-year ban on funding, put in place by Sen. Ken Salazar and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.
“The Army cannot explain why they need this land and why they can’t train on the 25 million acres already owned by the military,” Robertson said.