Expanded Training at Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site Receives Approval

The Department of Defense has approved plans to modify and increase training at the Army's Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in Southern Colorado.  The Record of Decision [.pdf], signed May 1 and made available last week, approves what's being called "Enhanced Readiness Training," to include brigade-size exercises and the use of 8-wheeled armored vehicles known as Strykers. Final approved training also includes laser targeting, demolitions training, and airspace reclassification.

The Decision's Executive Summary says the selected action, "best meets the Army's need to conduct realistic and coordinated large-scale training that integrates the ground and air resources of assigned and visiting units including mechanized, infantry, support, and combat aviation assets."  The paper also says, "[It] does not include, nor would it require, any land expansion of PCMS.  No additional land will be sought or acquired as a result of this action."

It's a thorny issue for nearby residents of the 235,000-acre training ground, many of whom see expanded infrastructure as a roadmap to land acquisition.  At a public meeting in November to discuss the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Jim Herrell called the inclusion of the statements downplaying land expansion a red flag.

"If you keep expanding the infrastructure of Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site," said Herrell in November, "as early as three, probably by five, and for sure by seven years from now, there will be a small note in the Congressional record about an authorization to acquire more land."

The approval comes after a more than yearlong process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that included a draft environmental assessment, a finalized assessment, and public meetings. 

Anticipated effects of increased activity include potentially significant impacts to soils and water resources, both through direct and indirect action.  Cumulatively, impacts to soils and water resources are deemed moderate, another point of contention with some opposed to the training site.

The Record of Decision calls for mitigation efforts, including possible restricting or reducing training when the ground is saturated. 

Fort Carson's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and others recently began a two-week exercise at the remote training site, utilizing more than 300 Stryker vehicles.