By Richard R. Riddle (Fort Carson)January 18, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Elk, deer, antelope and other wildlife on Fort Carson's 236,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in Las Animas County will spend more time foraging for food and less time looking for water.
The Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division natural resources staff is giving the water wells powered by solar pumps and windmills some much needed attention. Over the next several months, approximately 15 wells located throughout the maneuver site will be repaired.
"Providing quality habitat for the wildlife resource at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is another example of Fort Carson's commitment to being good stewards of our natural resources," said Jim McDermott, DPW Environmental Division Conservation Branch chief. "Food, water and cover are critical requirements to maintaining and supporting wildlife populations. While food and cover are readily available at PCMS, water is limited without maintaining these well sites."
When the Army first acquired PCMS from local ranchers in the early 1980s, the U.S. Geological Survey performed an inventory of water wells on the land. They identified 95 individual wells, which historically supported cattle ranching and described their condition, location and depth. Currently, only about 10 of the wells are operational.
In a region that receives less than 15 inches of rainfall per year, water is an important resource on the landscape for people, livestock and wildlife. Although livestock no longer range on PCMS, the installation has abundant wildlife resources, many of them game and nongame species that will benefit from these improvements.
Specific wells slated for repair were prioritized by which location will most benefit wildlife.
"Getting these wells working again will improve wildlife habitat across the maneuver site," said Rick Bunn, DPW Environmental Division Conservation Branch senior wildlife biologist. "The sites provide water for wildlife that temporarily shift their home range during military training events."
The long-term repair project at various watering points began last year and work on the first well began in December. The first well selected to receive repairs supplies water to a pipeline system with 10 watering points. Work on the remaining wells, which will ultimately support approximately 30 watering points, is expected to be completed by spring.
The DPW Environmental Division has committed to reinvigorating many of its environmental stewardship efforts at PCMS, including those that work hand-in-hand with military training and protect natural and cultural resources.