Salazar asks Gates for help on Pinon expansion plan |

Salazar asks Gates for help on Pinon expansion plan

DENVER – Sen. Ken Salazar said Wednesday he’s sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking the Army to help create an economic development plan for southeastern Colorado communities affected by a potential expansion of Fort Carson’s Pinon Canyon training ground.In a conference call with reporters, Salazar offered few specifics other than to suggest the Army station a brigade as part of a “Fort Carson annex” in the expansion area, perhaps near Trinidad. He said he wanted a response from Gates within 30 days.”I’m hoping the Department of Defense will take us to a greater level of specificity as to what they want to do in southeastern Colorado,” the Democrat said. “The reality of it is the Army has to do more for southeastern Colorado than take lands and put them into federal ownership.”The Army wants to expand the maneuver site from 368 square miles to more than 1,000 square miles as Fort Carson grows. It says it hopes to expand by working with landowners willing to sell and, according to Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, doesn’t expect to force anyone to sell property for the project.Many private land owners, ranchers and farmers who have owned their land for generations worry the Army would try to expand by using eminent domain.A proposal to block spending for the expansion, sponsored by Democratic Rep. John Salazar, the brother of the senator, and Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, passed in the U.S. House on Friday but has to make it through the Senate.The amendment to a defense spending bill would bar the military from using money in its 2008 budget to extend land holdings in southeastern Colorado and block funding for a planned environmental impact study.

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