Fort Carson seems to have given up on the strategy of "winning the hearts and minds" of the public when it comes to its latest proposal to expand training at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, "PCMS Training and Operations Draft EIS."Carson told us via email:
According to an announcement sent out last week, the army will hold just one public meeting, and that will be out on the prairie at the maneuver site. The location and timing of this solitary public meeting seems strategically designed to exclude the public and the media.
It would appear that the Army has decided that involving citizens is problematic. After all, they had lots of public participation during the draft phase of the previous effort to expand training at Pinon Canyon; the 2006, "Transformation EIS”. Members of the public, in the form of the "Not-1-More-Acre" organization, successfully sued the Army in federal court, forcing them to scrap that flawed plan. During that EIS process, three public meetings were held; one in Trinidad, one in La Junta, and one in Colorado Springs. 850 people attended the three public meetings generating 5000 written public comments. (Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site Transformation EIS, Executive Summary, 2006)
It looks like Army strategists are worried that there might be similar public interest in the current EIS. If attendance at the two scoping meetings is any indication, their concerns just might be justified. Scoping meetings are usually not a huge draw, but in the case of the current EIS there were plenty of interested members of the public; 50 people attended the meeting in Trinidad and 80 people attended the meeting in La Junta. According to the Army, "Comments received primarily asked the Army to consider closure of PCMS as an alternative." (PCMS Training and Operations Draft EIS, section S.9.1) So there may be reasons why the Army is trying to restrict access to the upcoming meeting by scheduling it at a place and time that they think will ensure a low turnout.
Rather than scheduling multiple meetings in places convenient to the public, they've scheduled a single meeting on their home turf, at the remote Pinon Canyon Site, 30 miles from Trinidad, 50 miles from La Junta and 150 miles from Colorado Springs. And they've scheduled it take place a week before Thanksgiving when the public's mind is occupied with holiday preparations and travel, and when bad weather on highway 350 is a distinct possibility.
They've also scheduled it at a time of day, 5:00 PM when attendance by any member of the public who works a job will be hard pressed to attend.
I suspect that Army strategists know that the public will be interested in the program outlined in the current draft EIS; Electronic warfare technologies including active energy emitting-weapons designed to jam cell phones, FM radios and other communications devices, the use of lasers, live fire and the use of explosives such at TNT and plastic explosives, drones and other robotic weapons, restrictions upon public air space, removal of trees from thousands of acres within proposed drop zones, as well as the removal of protective fencing around archaeological sites within the drop zones, loss of access to archaeological and other potential heritage tourism sites, (4,283 prehistoric and historic sites, 504 of which have been determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places), and a provision to accommodate future emerging weapons systems and doctrinal changes.
In their attempt to avoid yet another negative Pinon Canyon public relations disaster the Army may be creating one; the exclusion of the public from its so-called "public meetings."
"The decision to have a single public meeting at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site was made to allow the public to actually see the Army equipment, to include Strykers, that will be used during training on PCMS. During a fiscally constrained environment, holding one meeting is a savings to the taxpayer and the Army. Many of those who may desire to attend the meeting live in close proximity to PCMS. At no time is Fort Carson attempting to quell public comment, the goal is to give the public a greater understanding of the mission of PCMS and the purpose of the draft EIS.The draft EIS is here:
The venue can accommodate approximately 100 people. No one will be turned away from the meeting. Past meetings have averaged around 75 people."
Chief, Media Relations
Fort Carson Public Affairs