by Susan C. Galentine
Directorate of Public Works Public Relations
A part of Soldiers’ “equipment” is the land they use to train upon. Equipment requires maintenance to perform up to standard and so does land used for training.
Fort Carson has long understood the need to sustain the land while ensuring its training-ready condition here and at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. With a combined acreage of approximately 373,000 acres, the installations provide a dynamic habitat for a wealth of animal and plant species, as well as multiple training opportunities.
Sustaining such extensive acreage for training purposes requires coordinated efforts by installation units and garrison activities to ensure the safety of Soldiers; the conservation of natural resources; and compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations.
Management practices address the mechanical wear and tear of training on the land (seeding, erosion control, programs that stabilize highly-disturbed areas, etc.). Revegetation efforts and prescribed burns help to restore the habitat diversity of the land.
Endangered species and cultural resource surveys ensure training areas are evaluated and available for use to the greatest extent possible, while safeguarding unique species, their habitats and cultural resources. These programs are just some of the efforts necessary to ensure training lands are kept in prime condition and open for use.
Environmental education is a must for effective land stewardship and is a part of the training provided to Soldiers arriving here.
The environmental training provided helps ensure that future generations of Soldiers will also have land resources available for training exercises and weapons qualification.
Environmental training topics include:
- How to maneuver around sensitive wetland and wildlife habitat areas.
- Proper spill control.
- Cultural resources and artifact discovery notification process.
- Procedures for the disposal of hazardous waste.
- Education on “packing it in, packing it out” when it comes to waste that inevitably accompanies a downrange mission.
- Education on the sustainability and environmental compliance requirements.
Environmental requirements should not be seen as a liability, but can be seen as a unique and useful component to incorporate into the training mission. Unit representatives attending the mandatory Maneuver Damage Control Classes are taught how to incorporate certain “off limits” and/or “limited use areas” in their scenarios.
An example is considering an environmentally-sensitive area as a cemetery or chemically or biologically contaminated combat area.
Fort Carson training lands are dynamic – they contain grasslands, woodlands and wetlands, wildlife, plant species and a wealth of cultural/historic resources, some of which legally require consideration, while simultaneously providing the realistic training environment needed for the Army to prepare for combat.
A few of the wildlife species on Fort
Carson and PCMS lands have a federal protected status and require awareness and education as to how to interact or not interact with them.
The installations’ diverse habitats are home to many animals from mountain lions and black bears, to a variety of raptors and the very small Texas horned lizard. Careful coexistence is necessary to ensure these species and the mission are sustained.
Both installations are also rich in cultural resources, which represent all major prehistoric and historical cultural periods recognized on the Great Plains and in the Rocky Mountain region.
Prehistoric features include rock art, rudimentary architecture, camp sites, village sites and more. Historic sites managed
by Fort Carson and PCMS include such glimpses into the past as sheepherder camps, cattle and sheep ranches (buildings and support features), homesteads, stagecoach stations, coal mines, roads, trails and World War II Army hospital and military engineering facilities. Branches of the historic Santa Fe Trail pass through PCMS.
Without viable land, there is little ability to train. Ensuring that the training lands are well maintained now helps to ensure they will be ready for war fighters to use in the future.