Salazar Discusses Pinon Canyon

Pinon Canyon Expansion
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U.S. Senator Ken Salazar reports the future of the Army's Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is surrounded by unanswered questions. Salazar visited with state and local leaders Wednesday to compare notes on a possible expansion.

A standing room only crowd filled the Springs city council chambers Wednesday to discuss a parcel of land nearly three hours away.

"This must be an important issue since we have so many people who are here," said Sen. Ken Salazar (D) Colo.

In the group, local leaders with a take on the future of Pinon Canyon.

"Our top priority is taking care of men and women in uniform and their families," said Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera.

Rivera believes expanding the site is one way to do it.

The Army wants more than 400,000 acres to give troops more room for real-world training.

"I think we owe it to our military to have the best training possible before they deploy to the middle east," Rivera said.

Salazar has his own questions: specifically if Pinon Canyon is already large enough and if there could be a win-win answer for the Army and the ranchers who own the land it wants to buy.

"We need to explore concepts with respect to additional land that may be acquired and how that might be managed in a way to help support ranchers and the ranching community in the southeastern part of the state," he said.

Opponents outside the meeting said the Army wants too much.

"This would really open the door to the demise of a whole chunk of our state," said Bill Sulzman.

Local leaders urged Salazar to support pre-expansion environmental impact studies while giving landowners a break from Army pressure to sell.

Salazar said he'll take their input back to the drawing board for the upcoming legislative session in September.