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Will the Army Be Allowed to Skip Out on Environmental Studies for Piñon Canyon?

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In recent years, the Fort Carson Army post’s plans for expanding its training site south of Colorado Springs have found little political and legal support—especially not from the area ranchers behind a vast coalition of local, business, and conservation interests. As the Pueblo Chieftain points out, it was more than a year ago that a U.S. district judge dealt the Army a setback in its effort to expand what is known as the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site by finding its environmental impact study inadequate.

But the Army has released a new environmental plan, the first step toward expanding the more than 235,000-acre training area. The report, which defends the original “proposed action” to expand the site, surprisingly claims a formal environmental impact statement is not needed: “The proposed action may be approved and implemented without significant adverse, unmitigated environmental impacts. As a result, proceeding with a [full environmental study] is not necessary.”

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Republican Congressman Scott Tipton, who represents the district surrounding the impacted area, says he will not introduce legislation that would ban funding to the site, as his predecessor, Democrat John Salazar, had in recent years, notes the Trinidad Times-Independent. Tipton says that doesn’t mean he favors expansion. “Mostly we’re listening to everybody involved,” adds Tipton spokesman Josh Green. Earlier this month, the Colorado Springs Independent reported that federal and state historic preservation officials began investigating the Army’s alleged infringement of archeological sites in the region, a potential violation of federal law. They found that tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles had roamed onto 39 sensitive sites, laments Steve Turner, a deputy state historic preservation officer.

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