Thanks Wild Bill for the compliment about my "detective work." But you deserve all of the credit since you are the one who advised me to look at the condition of Pinon Canyon on Google Earth. I'll try to also follow up on your additional advise that I,"look at the aggregate, over the last 10 years." I don't use Google Earth a lot and am unfamiliar with how to do it, but I'll try to figure it out. I'll also try to correlate the images with training intensity during the corresponding time-frames. I agree that that would be a fairer way to assess the impact. But there are things that you can't see from a satellite image. As I said, quick, cosmetic ground-cover grasses look nice and green from space. The deep-rooted buffalo grass which held the soil for millennia isn't quite as pretty. Another thing that it's hard to see in the Google images is the depth of ruts. I've stood inside ruts at Pinon Canyon that came up to my knee. Oh, and thanks also for acknowledging that my findings are half true.
Wild Bill, I did as you suggested. I went to Google Earth and took a look at Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site and compared it to the ranch land surrounding it. Maybe it's just the time of year, but I couldn't see the contrast that you claim to be visible. I do know that the slow-growing native grasses such as buffalo grass are critical. When the Army reseeds they do it with fast-growing and green-looking varieties. But they are not native grasses with deep root systems which hold the soil. I'm not sure if Google's satellite images show the difference between these different grasses. After I zoomed out to see if I could discern the difference between PCMS and surrounding ranches, I zoomed in. Try that! Zoom in as close as you can. What you'll see is a land surface covered with crisscrossing vehicle tracks. Some areas show more damage than others, but almost anywhere you look you'll see a ravaged environment. Thanks for the Google Earth tip!
In order to understand the intensified use of Pinon Canyon you have to look at the bigger picture. For the past decade the Pentagon has had its sights set upon expanding the maneuver site in order to create a vast joint-forces testing and training range. Back in 2006 Army documents outline the phased acquisition of 6.9 million acres which extend the site all the way to the Kansas and Oklahoma borders. But a diverse coalition galvanized broad-based opposition made up of ranchers as well as environmentalists and peace activists. By 2013 the negative PR had gotten so intense that the Secretary of the Army pulled the plug on Fort Carson's permit to acquire land for expansion. But don't think for a minute that military interests in Colorado Springs have given up on Fort Carson being the biggest, baddest base in America, or that arms merchants have given up on their dream of a huge range where they can test drones and other robotic weapon systems. That's why they're beating the place to death. After a couple more years of overwhelming the carrying capacity of the land they'll be able to make the argument that Pinon Canyon cannot sustain the level of training that is taking place and must be expanded. The Army pays lip-service to the language of "sustainable ranges." You'd think that might mean using resources in ways that sustainable. But if the Army can "sustain the mission" by destroying Pinon Canyon, thus creating a perceived need for more land, so much the better. It reminds me of a famous quote from the Vietnam War, 'It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.' In this case it's, "In order to expand Pinon Canyon the Army will first need to destroy it."
It is worth noting that the Army's Environmental Impact Statement acknowledges that the new, "more robust protocols" they expect to inflict "significant" impact on soils, water and wildlife. The word "significant" is pretty slippery, but I see it as a euphemism for "extreme damage." Of course, the EIS proposes "mitigation measures;" another euphemism meaning, "to make less bad." Mitigation occurs AFTER the damage has been done... maybe; if federal funds are made available. The EIS says 62% of the soil is highly susceptible to wind erosion. Once destroyed, deep rooted native grasses take years to be reestablished. Large-scale maneuvers will strip the ground producing dust storms which could cause the depopulation of counties to the East, all the way to the Kansas and Oklahoma borders. The EIS says this can be mitigated, made less catastrophic IF funding is available. So, the poor folks living downwind from Pinon Canyon will most likely be eating a lot of dust.
The federal government can certainly make or break a regional economy. It broke ours in Las Animas County when 325,000 acres of productive agricultural land was taken. Ironically it now appears that El Paso County's economy is also at the mercy of the feds.
I live over 100 miles from Colorado Springs, down south in Las Animas County. My wife and I travel to Colorado Springs often; we love the shopping, we love the museums, we love the galleries, we love the colleges, we love the not-too-big city atmosphere, and we love the people. We almost always experience great "customer service." Colorado Springs really has a lot going it.
But Colorado Springs is vulnerable; way too dependent on the federal government. With all that the city has to offer it's really unwise to entrust the survival of the city to the ups and downs of the federal budget.
If Colorado Springs ends one of the many losers in this tussle with 29 other military dependent communities, that may not be so bad. It may be the much-needed opportunity to end federal dependency and to build a more diverse economy upon all of the many assets.
Okay Wild Bill, I'll concede that there may be a benefit in giving the public a chance to see the equipment, even if it is with stadium lighting. But why not schedule this meeting on a Saturday afternoon when we could look at Strykers in the light of day?
And I will grant you that it is an expense to run public meetings but the expense involved is nothing compared to the expenses involved in the programs that are being proposed in this EIS. I'm simply suggesting that the more public involvement, the better. As Dwight Eisenhower said, "Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
My point in paragraph three is that it's not just ranchers and the Army that are interested in our land at Pinon Canyon. I disagree with you when you say that, "the Army owns that land." My view of it is that the land belongs to the American People; we are allowing the Army to use it, but we can also disallow if we, the American People think it can be put to better use.
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