Friday, November 21, 2014

PCMS hearing draws crowd, Lamborn endorsement

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 11:02 AM

click to enlarge The Army put equipment on display outside the building where a hearing was conducted Thursday night on a proposal to expand use of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. - BILL SULZMAN
  • Bill Sulzman
  • The Army put equipment on display outside the building where a hearing was conducted Thursday night on a proposal to expand use of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site.

A public hearing about expanding the use of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site drew about 100 people to the PCMS building in southeast Colorado, according to two people who attended.

Bill Sulzman of Colorado Springs reports via email that attendees were greeted with a display of Stryker vehicles, which had been been driven there from Fort Carson on Thursday for the meeting. The Army also provided a display of drones, the Raven included.

"Young soldiers were demonstrating the ground devices in a fashion much like a young boy might do with a Christmas toy," Sulzman says, adding that one said, "Kids would love to have something like this." He also reports that two Stryker crewman he spoke with had never been to PCMS before.

"The meeting room was crowded, a hundred or so. Many could be identified as Army soldiers in uniform, civilian employees of various departments of the Army: public affairs, environmental staff, office of public works and training officials from PCMS. Probably 2/3 were members of the public," Sulzman says.

About 15 people spoke. "With few exceptions folks had critical comments or questions for the Hudson/Potomic firm which put together the study" two of whom Sulzman says told him they'd never been to PCMS before Thursday.

The mayor of Trinidad spoke in favor of the proposal, and a staffer for Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, delivered a letter from Lamborn to the Army about the proposed expanded training at PCMS.

click to enlarge Bill Sulzman, right, speaks to the crowd at the PCMS public hearing Thursday night. - DOUG HOLDREAD
  • Doug Holdread
  • Bill Sulzman, right, speaks to the crowd at the PCMS public hearing Thursday night.

"Several in the crowd wanted to know what it said," Sulzman says. "He refused to read it."

We obtained the letter, dated Nov. 20, from Lamborn's office. In it, the congressman says, in part:
PCMS remains our best Colorado and national asset for training our Army soldiers so they are ready to engage in combat in any desert and higher altitude semi-arid environment as America remains engaged in Afghanistan and across the Middle East. It remains a critical resource for our soldiers as they train for military missions throughout the world. As I stated for the record in May of 2009, "it is important to remember what is ultimately at stake, the safety of our troops in combat. We owe them the very best training we can give them so they can win wars and return home safely." I continue to support the use of the current PCMS national training range and its environmentally responsible management going forward. I pledge to ensure Congress supplies resources and oversight to guarantee PCMS viability and resiliency through the coming decade.
Here's the letter:

Doug Holdread of Trinidad also reported to us in an email, saying, "The crowd included the usual types; lots of ranchers of course, a few property rights and anti-government people, peace and justice advocates, environmentalist, conspiracy theorists, historic preservationists, local media, elected officials and representatives of our congressmen and senators."

He says people showed up from Trinidad, LaJunta, Colorado Springs, Denver and Boulder.

Paula Ozzello, of the Southern Colorado Environmental Council, lectured a Carson official on his responsibility to the "voiceless" residents of Pinon Canyon, referring to the wildlife population there, Holdread says.

"One rancher who lives in the area and has been bothered by low flying Army aircraft 'playing' above her cattle made the point that for her, the problem isn't urban sprawl, but 'military sprawl,'" Holdread says. "Rebecca Goodwin, board chairperson of Colorado Preservation Inc, challenged a statement in the EIS that land on the maneuver site is similar to the surrounding landscapes, making the point that 'it used to be similar.'" 

Here's Holdread's testimony:
My name is Doug Holdread.

Each time another EIS comes along I argue with myself about the value of participating. This time it was settled by the words of an Army General who 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." Those are the words of Dwight Eisenhower upon leaving the Presidency.

This NEPA process is important for two reasons: It's an opportunity for us to be the alert and knowledgeable citizens that Eisenhower urged us to be. NEPA requires the Army to describe the destruction that its actions will cause, in a public setting with the media and elected officials present. It also gives us standing in case, down the road we want to challenge the Army legislatively or in court.

No need to buy into secret agendas to get a vivid picture of destruction painted by this this EIS. It lists three categories in which "significant" adverse impacts will occur; the water, the plants and animals and the soil. The destruction of the top soil could trigger another dust bowl. 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. We all know that funding is a big "if." The Army says lack of funding is the reason we're having only this one public meetings. Last time we did an EIS there were three, with a total of 850 participating.

Cumulative impacts are supposed to include past, present, and future actions. You have to add up all the damage over time. When PCMS was established our economy lost 3000 head of cattle. These days that's about $6,000,000. Over three decades that's a significant cumulative impact. Think of it like smoking. A few cigarettes as day for a year might have a minor impact on your health, but 50 years of smoking would probably be significant. We need to know how long the Army's planning to abuse our land. How long will they chip away at our unique and irreplaceable archaeological sites? Small annual levels of destruction add up. Constant degradation could end up being 100% destruction over time.

During scoping I submitted a suggested alternative that would return many of these sites to the public, by transferring the Hogback Cultural Corridor to a local redevelopment authority. Why should we pay the Army to stand guard over our archaeological treasures?

My alternative meets the screening criteria and would not curtail the stated need and purpose of this EIS. There is a precedent. In 1991 Senator Tim Wirth got 16,000 acres transferred to the Forest Service to create Picketwire Canyon. I hope my suggested alternative will be considered in the Final EIS.

Finally, lots of people were unable to attend this meeting. So, for the sake of allowing alert and knowledgeable citizens an opportunity to participate in our democratic process, extend the comment period for an additional 45 days, and schedule three more meetings in Trinidad, La Junta and Colorado Springs. 

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