Ranchers call for drawdown at Fort Carson

By PETER ROPER | THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN, COLO. Published: February 14, 2013

PUEBLO, Colo. — Ranchers who fought the Army over its past efforts to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site are lobbying to have Fort Carson lose 8,000 soldiers in the future, if the Army has to redistribute its troops around the nation.

“Right now, the Army is essentially considering two alternatives for Fort Carson — adding 3,000 soldiers as part of a troop realignment or cutting 8,000,” said Lon Robertson, of the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition. “We certainly think that reducing Fort Carson’s troop strength is preferable to adding more, which only increases pressure on Pinon Canyon.”

The Army is seeking public comment on an environmental assessment report that looks at redistributing its troops at posts across the nation. The report evaluates options at all the Army’s posts and lists Fort Carson’s troop strength at 25,823. The post is the home of the 4th Infantry Division and is also getting a new aviation brigade of 112 helicopters.

The analysis poses three choices for Fort Carson — leaving it at its current troop strength, adding more troops or reducing the current force. The report’s purpose is to evaluate how to shrink the Army’s overall size from 560,000 to 490,000 soldiers and where to base them.

Steve Wooten, a Pinon Canyon coalition member whose ranch borders the training range, said the group and its supporters are sending their comment letters to Army officials at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

The deadline for comment is Feb. 17.

‘‘One of the reasons we’re objecting to the environmental report is it dismisses the environmental impact on Pinon Canyon from heavier troop use as ‘mitigable’ ’’ Wooten said. “We certainly disagree with that.”

Army officials have said they intend to increase the use of the 235,000-acre Pinon Canyon training area northeast of Trinidad. A brigade from Fort Carson is currently training at the range.



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