Army drops appeal over Pinon Canyon study
PUEBLO, Colo. – The federal government is dropping an appeal of a court ruling related to the Army’s plans to step up training at Pinon Canyon.
The Justice Department appealed a Sept. 8 federal court ruling that said the Army didn’t adequately assess the environmental effects of increasing training at the southeast Colorado site. It filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on Tuesday.
Justice Department lawyers representing the Army refused to comment on the move.
Army Secretary John McHugh, who was visiting Fort Carson Wednesday, said the Army didn’t want to appeal the decision in the first place, but the Justice Department did.
McHugh said dropping the appeal was the right decision.
Soldiers from Fort Carson train at Pinon Canyon.
Ranchers have been fighting to stop the Army from expanding the training area, but Judge Richard Matsch’s ruling only dealt with plans to send more soldiers to the existing site.
He threw out the environmental study on increasing training there up to 365 days a year, saying the Army’s own reports show that more modest training had caused damage at the site.
Last week, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., called on Attorney General Eric Holder and McHugh to drop the appeal, saying it sent a “hostile message” to ranchers fighting a proposal to enlarge the site.
“As I said before, further litigation would have only served to engender more anger, frustration and misunderstanding between the Army and local landowners,” Bennet said Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, whose district includes Fort Carson, said the decision to drop the appeal provides an opportunity for the Army and opponents of expanding the training site to discuss a “win-win solution.” The Republican said Army officials have pledged not to acquire land through condemnation.
The Army uses the 238,000-acre training site about four months a year, and has proposed expanding it by 100,000 acres to accommodate an increase in soldiers at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs.
Includes information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, http://www.chieftain.com