Military


Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS)

The Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS), located 150 miles southeast of Fort Carson, is a great training asset for Fort Carson, other installations, and National Guard and Reserve units from all branches of the service. It was opened in 1985 to provide critical maneuver lands for larger units on the Installation and from other installations in the area. It's 235,896 acres, combined with Fort Carson's training areas, comprise maneuver training lands second only to the National Training Center in size.

Fort Carson, with 97,201 acres of range land, supports limited battalion-size or smaller training exercises. Pi¤on Canyon Maneuver Site is one of the Army's few, non-live- fire training areas allowing force-on-force, mechanized brigade training exercises. As the second largest Department of Defense training site in the nation, PCMS hosts two major military exercises a year. In each exercise, roughly 5,000 troops, 300 heavy tracked vehicles and 400 wheeled vehicles take to the expansive wilderness in month-long, intensive war maneuver exercises.

The site supports a diverse ecosystem with large numbers of big and small game, fisheries, non-game wildlife, forest, rangeland and mineral resources. It is bounded on the east by the dramatic topography of the Purgatoire River Canyon, a 100 meter (328 foot) deep scenic red canyon with flowing streams, sandstone formations, and exposed geologic processes.

During 1974 the need for additional land for training began to receive considerable emphasis. The plan was to acquire the needed land in yearly increments. The total, approximately 74,000 acres, was located on the east and southwest border of Fort Carson. The citizens of the Pueblo area voiced considerable opposition to the expansion, particularly the proposed use of the Pueblo Reservoir for amphibious training. Carson's efforts to obtain more training land involved considerable interaction with the local civilian communities. Following public hearings, Colorado Governor Richard Lamm appointed a 12-member committee to submit a report in the spring of 1976.

Due to additional Department of the Army requirements that all land expansion proposals be supported by analytical study, a comprehensive study to analyze the division's needs was completed in 1978. The study determined that a 129,000 acre shortfall existed. Additional offers were considered by the Army. Pinon Canyon, consisting of 245,000 acres and located some 100 air miles southeast of the fort, was selected. The land purchase was completed on September 17, 1983. The cost was approximately $26 million. An additional $2 million was used for relocation of 11 landowners and for school bond relief. Approximately one half of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site was acquired through the legal process of condemnation.

PCMS was opened for training in the summer of 1985. Units at Fort Carson are rotated to the site for maneuver training and preparation for the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Expansion of the training site includes the construction of a dirt air strip, additions to the cantonment area, and a vehicle maintenance facility. The Environmental and Natural Resource Program for the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is unique within the Department of Defense. The operation of this important maneuver training site was planned to provide for the continuing balance between the military and national resource protection. The resource protection program is divided into six primary areas: the study and protection of wildlife; plant and soil conservation; water quality; the impact of training on archaeology and cultural resources; and the effect of sound on the environment in the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site.

In 1988, the National Wildlife Federation recognized the superlative work at PCMS by presenting their Conservation Achievement Award "for outstanding contributions to the wise use and management of the Nation's natural resources." It was the first time that a Defense Department organization had received the award.

Acquisition of additional training lands at Fort Carson and the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS), CO to meet the demands of training exercises is not likely so an alternative approach was taken to take advantage of the existing training lands. At the Colorado post and its Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS), soldiers of the 52nd Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) and specialists from Fort Carson's Directorate of Environmental Compliance and Management (DECAM) routinely team up on earth-moving projects to control and repair erosion on the range watershed.

In the spring of 1998 an aggressive program was implemented to slope the steep banks of gullies on Fort Carson and the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS). The Bankslope Planning Team was formed, consisting of representatives from the military, Safety Directorate, Wildlife, Cultural Resources, Range Control and LRAM, to ascertain whether the selected sites were suitable for banksloping. The problems with gullies are two fold, with military training and with the environment.

Militarily, gullies fragment training areas, dictate direction of travel, and are a safety concern. Military training opportunities will be enhanced since training areas that are normally fragmented will be joined by banksloping. The military will be able to travel at right angles to the banksloped gullies thus providing opportunities to train in different directions and possibly use different training scenarios. Safety will be improved as may reduce costs in vehicle maintenance.

Environmentally, gullies are a major source of erosion and sediment. Erosion results in loss of topsoil and vegetation. It may also lower water tables that would result in altered plant and wildlife communities. Increased sediment loads will impact aquatic habitat downstream from the gully. Increased water flows and sediment may also adversely impact adjacent landowners. By banksloping, these problems may be greatly diminished. By banksloping the erosion and sediment will be reduced. Banksloped areas were seeded to provide a realistic training environment, help stabilize the slopes and to provide habitat for wildlife. Banksloping will also reduce impacts to adjacent land owners and aquatic habitat downstream.

 



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