Salazar Introduces Amendment Asking For Pinon Canyon Delay

Sen. Senator Ken Salazar proposed Wednesday that the Army wait a year before deciding whether to go through with a massive expansion of its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeast Colorado.

Salazar, D-Colo., introduced two amendments to a military funding bill that would impose a "cooling-off period" on the hotly disputed expansion and would ask the Army to study whether the expansion is needed.

Members of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce objected to Salazar's amendment during a news conference Wednesday.

Vickie Shepherd said she was concerned about the impact to military families and the potential for increased risk to the U.S. if soldiers cannot get appropriate training.

Dave Csintyan, Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce said, “The Pinion Canyon expansion debate is framed through the opposing views of many Colorado stakeholders. With this in mind, we must seek an equitable, well-considered solution to the benefit of all concerned.”

The Army wants to increase the 368-square-mile site to about 1,000 square miles. It says it needs more space to accommodate a new brigade coming to Fort Carson and to allow for better training for modern warfare.

The Army also says the expansion would allow Fort Carson soldiers to train in the state instead of going elsewhere.

Ranchers neighboring the site still fear the Army will force them to give up their land. They also say the expansion would take too much land out of agricultural production, damaging the economy.

The Army has said it hopes to acquire all the land it needs from willing sellers.

"My goal here is to create a time-out to allow for a cooling-off period between those who oppose the Pinon Canyon Army Maneuver Site expansion and those who support it," Salazar said in a teleconference with journalists.

Salazar noted that a base expansion commission report in 2005 said existing terrain was adequate for proposed expansions of troops.

Salazar said the Army also needs to say what kind of economic assistance it could provide southeastern Colorado, and whether it would be possible to lease land for maneuvers rather than buy it.

The first-term senator has been under pressure from ranchers surrounding the site to oppose the expansion.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., introduced similar legislation in the House calling for a delay in the expansion.

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