The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment on a draft environmental assessment that would allow U.S. Army helicopters from Fort Carson to land in 43 landing zones on public lands in Fremont, Teller and Park counties as part of high altitude mountain training exercises.
The landing zones are located on rangeland currently used for cattle grazing. All the landing zones are located on BLM land, and most of Fremont County’s landing zones, estimated at 30, are west of Canon City in the Tallahassee area northeast of Colorado 9 and U.S. 50.
The draft proposal involves helicopters briefly touching down on and flying over public lands.
According to the draft, Fort Carson has determined that training is a priority and recommends it for units deploying to areas with high elevations. The training will be an effective way to reduce helicopter accidents and casualties attributed to crews lacking the skills necessary to safely operate at high altitudes.
In the draft assessment, BLM officials address noise, as well as the project’s impact on recreation, cultural and tribal affairs, big game, raptors and migratory bird impacts. The proposed action would allow Fort Carson a 10-year right-of-way grant to land helicopters on public lands.
Helicopters would not carry any armaments, and there would not be any troop maneuvers on the ground.
Most flights are proposed for the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. range.
The environmental assessment also offers a “no action alternative” that would essentially deny the request. The document also contains a limited alternative that would authorize Fort Carson to land in 11 landing zones.
The final alternative is a seasonal restriction alternative designed to reduce impacts on recreational uses, hunting and wildlife impacts. That alternative would allow use of 13 landing zones during the summer and 11 landing zones year-round, but would limit landings to weekdays.
“Public input is vital for informing our decision,” said Keith Berger, Royal Gorge field office manager. “We welcome this opportunity to gather input from the community that we serve.”
Public Information Officer Brant Porter said the agency is hoping the public views all the alternatives before commenting. He said the alternatives address concerns that members of the public voiced during the scoping process.
Deadline to comment is Sept. 11.
The public is encouraged to review the draft assessment, maps, and information on the BLM ePlanning site https://go.usa.gov/xywF7. Comments must be submitted through the ePlanning site or by mail addressed to “HAMET Public Comment,” 3028 E. Main St., Canon City, CO 81212.
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