The Army is one step closer to expanding its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in Southern Colorado. On Wednesday, the Army announced the Department of Defense had granted it a waiver to the moratorium on major land acquisition. That means the Army can now move forward with plans to expand Pinon Canyon by up to 418,577 acres. Army officials will start the process by gathering public input and conducting an environmental impact study over the expansion plans.
LT COL David Johnson of Fort Carson's Public Affairs Office, says expanding Pinon Canyon would allow soldiers to train with helicopters and tanks, on land the size of a battlefield they might encounter in Iraq. Johnson says right now much of that land is owned by farmers and ranchers who could be greatly impacted by the expansion.
"Our preferred course of action would be to buy the land from willing sellers," said Johnson. "But the US Army has decided it will not take eminent domain condemnation off the table ."
In response to the Army's announcement, US Senator Ken Salazar made this statement on Wednesday:
"I will watch carefully as this process unfolds and emphasize to the Army that they should not use eminent domain if they move forward with and expansion," said Salazar.
Currently, the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site covers 235,000 acres, which the Army acquired in the early 1980's. About half that land was acquired through eminent domain.
During the coming months, Johnson says the Army will aggressively seek the public's input during forums designed to discuss several options regarding the expansion plans.