FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Fort Carson officials finalized last week the conservation easements on 7,045 acres of land bordering the installation's southern and southeastern boundaries. This completes a nine year process to develop conservation easements on 22,292 acres of land from the Walker family through the Army's Compatible Use Buffer Program. The acquisition process was accomplished by The Nature Conservancy, Fort Carson's ACUB partner.

Conservation easements limit development and protect natural resources while, in this case, serving to buffer Fort Carson's military training areas. Conservation easements also allow landowners to maintain their interest in the property as well as use the land for traditional purposes.

These conservation easements will allow the Mountain Post to permanently maintain an approximately two-mile wide external buffer zone separating training ranges and communities adjacent to the southern end of the post. The buffer will ensure that the post can protect and sustain current and future training capabilities on range areas.

The buffer areas were necessitated by the rapid community development in nearby Pueblo West. The conservation easements were purchased from the Walker family, also of Pueblo West.

"I can't say enough about the forward thinking of our Department of Defense, Fort Carson and The Nature Conservancy in orchestrating and achieving such a winning situation for everyone. Dozens of dedicated people, both military and civilian, should be heralded for their work on this project and its ultimate success that started around the kitchen table at my ranch almost 15 years ago," said Gary Walker. "In America, all it takes are the right people at the right time with the same goal and anything can be achieved. I am proud to have played a small part."

ACUB is a national program that links the interests of private landowners, natural resources and military readiness through voluntary purchase of conservation easements and land. Fort Carson's ACUB program is supported with funds from the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative and the Department of Army. To date, approximately $40 million has been spent on the program at Fort Carson.

"Fort Carson is the largest DoD installation to achieve large-scale, demonstrable success for a buffer program," said Col. Robert F. McLaughlin, Fort Carson garrison commander. "For commanders here on the ground, the purchase of these easements means we can continue to train our Soldiers without the concern of restricted training due to development close to our boundaries down range."

The Army and The Nature Conservancy, through their ACUB partnership, realized a substantial conservation benefit by protecting large tracts of adjoining acreage in close proximity to the existing large, core area of quality habitat at Fort Carson. The net effect will be that the Walkers' careful stewardship of the land spanning the past 50 years will continue to support high quality natural resources and habitat for a wide range of wildlife.

The Army Environmental Command and US Fish and Wildlife Service helped to facilitate the project by lending their technical assistance and support.