Pinon Canyon Maneuver training site expansion fight nearing end

PUEBLO, Colo. - The Defense Department is repealing a 2007 land-aquisition waiver for the Army to try and add 418,000 more acres to the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado.

The Pueblo Chieftain reports that Sen. Mark Udall and Army Assistant Secretary Katherine Hammack will make the announcement Monday.

The Pinon Canyon training site is a satellite of Fort Carson, 90 miles away. The site was developed in southeast Colorado in the 1980s. About half of the land was acquired by eminent domain.

The Army initially said it needed to increase the 368-square-mile Pinon Canyon site to about 1,000 square miles to accommodate the troops being transferred to Fort Carson. It said it would be too expensive to ship the soldiers elsewhere for training.

However, ranchers and landowners in the area have been fighting the plan for years. They say the expansion would take too much land out of agricultural production, damaging the economy. They also fear the Army will force them to sell their land, despite assurances from the military that it hopes to get the acreage from willing sellers

The Pinon Canyon site is used for training about four months per year, according to court records.

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