Fort Polk addresses Land Acquisition Program - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Fort Polk addresses Land Acquisition Program

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Soldiers take part in the Expert Field Medical Badge test. (Source: Fort Polk Public Affairs Office) Soldiers take part in the Expert Field Medical Badge test. (Source: Fort Polk Public Affairs Office)
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FORT POLK, LA (KPLC) -

The Fort Polk Public Affairs Office is now addressing a controversial Land Acquisition Program introduced at a meeting held April 8 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In a news release, the Public Affairs Office said that the program encompasses up to 42,500 acres south of Peason Ridge, which Fort Polk hopes to utilize as a training area. The Corps of Engineers will serve as a "real estate agent" in the purchasing process.

In an open letter to the community, Brig. Gen. William Hickman, Commander of the JRTC and Fort Polk, released the following statement:

"I have always been proud to say I am a member of America's Army... Over and over again, Louisiana demonstrates a real commitment to our Soldiers, Families, civilian employees and retirees. That kind of support is unprecedented among military installations - and I've been to many... The relationship we enjoy, the relationship our communities thrive on, depends on honest and open communication. That's what you're going to get from Fort Polk. That's our standard." 

The full letter is available at http://www.kplctv.com/story/25467520/fort-polk-commander-issues-open-letter-to-community

The Public Affairs Office released the following statements regarding the program:

What are Fort Polk's current training areas?

Fort Polk's training area is currently 198,000 acres, 100,000 of which belong to the Army. The other 98,000 acres belong to the U.S. Forest Service. Forest Service land, which Fort Polk is allowed to use, is divided into two areas: Intensive use and the limited use area.

The limited use area is Forest Service land that is also open to the public for recreational purposes. The intensive use area is land that Fort Polk uses to support maneuver of large unit formations and live fire operations.

Why would a larger training area be necessary for Fort Polk?

Much of the Forest Service land, which is important for small unit training, does not support training large formations, and in the case of the Limited Use Area, is closed to the Army for three to four months annually ­­–– additional use would not be safe for the public.

Much has changed in the Army over the past five years. In the 1990s, our average JRTC rotation included 2,500 Soldiers; by 2006 with the war in Iraq escalating, our rotations reached approximately 5,000 Soldiers. Today, our rotations are increasing to 6,000 Soldiers. That number is expected to rise to 7,000 by September 2014. It is vital that the Army train these units over larger areas that allow unrestricted maneuver training and extensive, complex live fires.

How much land and how many landowners will be affected by the program?

Fifty-four landowners are being impacted; 29 have residences in the area. Landowners have met with the Corps of Engineers and members of the Fort Polk command to discuss the land-acquisition process, and are being fully informed. Additionally, they have all been provided copies of documents that explain their rights and benefits, such as relocation assistance, payment of closing costs, and more, under the program. The Corps of Engineers has already acquired about 32,500 acres of the targeted 42,500 acres.

What is eminent domain?

Eminent domain involves the right of the state (or federal government) to acquire land provided it is for public use (for the good of the public, in this case the training of Soldiers); however the U.S. Constitution requires just compensation for that land. None of the 32,500 acres of land already acquired has required the use of eminent domain through the court process. Our goal is always to use willing sellers and that is the first step in land purchase negotiations.

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