U.S. Army: Five million acres needed for training facilities by 2011
As the U.S. military budget balloons, so does the Armed Services’ need to train its soldiers. In fact, some military planners foresee a need for 5 million more acres for training facilities by 2011.
In September, Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) told his fellow Congressmen that “the Army believes it has a current deficit of 2 million acres needed for training, a figure expected to grow by 2011 to 5 million acres.” Five million acres is comprable to 7,812 square miles -- an area about the size of New Jersey.
Now, Colorado is the site of a contested fight between the U.S. Army and longtime ranchers. The military wants to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, a 1,000-square-mile facility near the New Mexico border, by 418,000 acres, thus tripling its size. This would require land owned by private ranchers.
The government is appealing to the patriotism of the community, but the landowners are skeptical of the appeals to national security. "It's rude. It ain't right. It's not American," said Stan White, a rancher who could lose more than 6,000 acres in Walsenburg. "We take our military and our country very seriously, but we're up against something we can't get ahold of. If they get this done, it's a national disgrace."
According to the Washington Post, “Several dozen ranchers and members of 15 county commissions that voted to oppose the project find themselves pitted against the Pentagon and Colorado business interests in a struggle over property rights, personal heritage and the contested priorities of national security.”
Businesses have joined the military in advocating for the base expansion. Brian A. Binn, president of the military affairs committee of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, said “the benefits to the state economy and national defense are clear. If the ranchers triumph and the training site is not created, he added, other states would be all too willing to accept the troops and the business.”
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