The Craig National Guard Training Site includes two munitions response sites: the Craig Small Arms Range MRS and the Sand Wash Artillery Range, located outside of Craig, Colorado. A remedial investigation and feasibility study was completed for both munition response sites in 2012, which characterized the nature and extent of munitions and explosives of concern (MEC) to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.
Remedial activities are conducted by the Army National Guard under its Non-Department of Defense Owned Non-Operational Defense Site program, a nationwide program designed to identify former training areas where the National Guard used munitions in training exercises. We and the Army National Guard have developed a plan for cleanup and providing public education to protect users. This work is ongoing.
The Former Craig Small Arms Range Munitions Response Site was a 47-acre small arms range located at Cedar Mountain, approximately 6 miles northwest of Craig, CO. The Craig Small Arms Range Munition Response Site property was permitted to the Colorado Army National Guard by the Bureau of Land Management for training purposes between 1956 and 1978. The Colorado Army National Guard trained with a variety of small arms at the range, including: .30 caliber carbine, .30 caliber rifle (M1 rifle), 7.62 millimeter (mm) (M14 rifle), .45 caliber pistol, and .30, .45, and .50 caliber machine guns target practice. They also fired 40mm practice rifle grenades and reportedly high explosive 40mm rifle grenades on occasion.
The Bureau of Land Management leased the land to the Bears Ears Sportsman Club for use as a private small arms range. A right-of-entry, valid through July 2022, has been issued by the Bureau of Land Management to perform remedial action activities at the Munitions Response Site. The Bears Ears Sportsman Club reconfigured the range and previous structures used by the Colorado Army National Guard no longer remain. Much of the easily accessible terrain is occupied with buildings, firing lines, earthen berms, and target areas associated with the Bears Ears Sportsman Club.
The down-range portions of the Munitions Response Site are steep and undeveloped and are accessible for nonintrusive recreational activities. While conducting the Remedial Investigation and Time Critical Removal Action, the Department of Defense identified military munitions and munitions debris at the Munitions Response Site.
In 2016, a Time Critical Removal Action was completed to remove munitions and explosive of concerns potentially presenting an explosive hazard discovered within a 16.4 acre portion of the Craig Small Arms Range that presented an imminent threat to the public, accessing the property through the BSEC. The TCRA included surface and subsurface MEC clearance on a total of 16.58 acres within the 40-mm range.
In 2020, CDPHE and the Army National Guard finalized the Record of Decision to complete remedial actions at the Craig Small Arms Range MRS. The Selected Remedy consists of one-time DoD military munitions removal and implementation of land use controls (LUCs), after the removal action. Under this alternative, LUCs will be implemented including ARNG-directed annual educational awareness activities, warning signs explaining the DoD military munitions hazards, restrictions, and IC requirements.
The Craig Sand Wash Practice Rocket Range MRS is a 186-acre practice rocket range located approximately 45 miles west of Craig in Moffat County, Colorado, that was used by the Colorado Army National Guard for various training-related needs between February 8, 1956, and April 25, 1978, under a use permit granted by the Bureau of Land Management. In April 1978, the Department of the Army elected to not renew the property lease from the Bureau of Land Management. The Sand Wash Practice Rocket Range Munitions Response Site is currently used for recreational activities, with natural/cultural resources protection, recreation, and transportation and access/travel management restrictions being administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
The Sand Wash Practice Rocket Range is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is located within and adjacent to the Sand Wash Herd Management Area, where a wild horse herd ranges in size from 163 to 362 animals. The area is used for non-intrusive recreational activities, including horseback riding, camping, rock hounding, and large and small game hunting. Remaining downrange portions of the Munitions Response Site are steep, undeveloped, and accessible for non-intrusive recreational activities. Potential future land use at the Sand Wash Practice Rocket Range Munitions Response Site is expected to remain generally unchanged and would include continued non-intrusive recreational uses.
In 2016, a Time Critical Removal Action was undertaken at the Craig Sand Wash Practice Rocket Range Munitions Response Site of the former Sand Wash Artillery Range Munitions Response Area, located approximately 45 miles west of Craig in Moffat County, Colorado. The Time Critical Removal Action removed material potentially presenting an explosive hazard that is on the ground surface and that breaches the ground surface from the shallow subsurface at the site. The Time Critical Removal Action substantially reduced the potential for humans and wildlife to be exposed to material potentially presenting an explosive hazard.
In 2019, the Army National Guard, with support from the Army Corps of Engineers, developed a community relations plan to encourage communication between the Army National Guard and the community surrounding the Craig National Guard Training Site Munitions Response Area and the Craig Small Arms Range Munitions Response Sites to address community issues. The remote locations and short history of investigation have resulted in limited public awareness of the sites.
The key community issue is to ensure the safety of current users of the sites. Education and public awareness of the munitions hazards should continue and needs to be targeted to recreational users, including hikers, horseback riders, rock hounds, hunters, and recreational vehicle users. Clear signs and postings at the properties are desired. The Army National Guard is committed to communicate with the stakeholder groups as remedial activities occur at the site.
Munitions may include live munitions fired during training that didn’t fire as designed or training and practice munitions, both of which remain hazardous. We work directly with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Army National Guard at different sites to determine what, if any, risks might be posed to the public and the appropriate mitigation measures.
- Training and practice munitions may also be hazardous.
- These munitions can contain a type of spotting charge that simulates explosive impact.
- The spotting charge can vary from a few grains of black powder to several pounds of high explosive.
- Never assume that "training" or "practice" means a munition item is safe to touch.
- Even the least sensitive items may explode if exposed to careless and improper handling.
- It’s important to remember that military munitions were designed to destroy military supplies and equipment, and to kill or maim people.
- Regardless of their age, munition items retain their hazardous and dangerous nature.
- Leave the handling of munitions to trained experts who can assess the item and make the area safe.
The three “R’s” of munitions safety
- Recognizing when you may have encountered a munition is key to reducing the risk of injury or death.
- If you encounter or suspect you’ve encountered a munition, consider it extremely dangerous.
- Munitions are sometimes hard to see and identify. They may resemble:
- A pointed pipe.
- A soda can.
- A baseball.
- A muffler.
- Other metal objects.
- They may be:
- Visible on the surface.
- Exposed by erosion or fires.
- They may look new or old, be complete or in parts, be found alone or in groups.
- Any suspect items should be considered dangerous, regardless of size or apparent age.
- If you encounter or suspect you’ve encountered a munition, don’t touch, move or disturb it.
- Immediately and carefully leave the area, following the same path on which you entered.
- If you can, mark the general area — not the munition — in some manner (e.g., with a hat, piece of cloth, or tying a piece of plastic to a bush or tree branch).
- Call 911 immediately.
- Notify local law enforcement of what you saw and where you saw it.
- If you or someone you know may have collected munitions-related items as souvenirs, please notify law enforcement immediately so trained professionals can remove the items safely.