Rep. Salazar Opposes Pi

With resistance mounting in the state legislature, Congressman John Salazar announced today that he will ask the U.S. Army to halt its plan to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site by 418,000 acres in southeastern Colorado.

In a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Salazar describes how the Army made an “about-face” and writes that there is no “demonstrated need for expansion.”Parts of the letter:

When I was first briefed by Fort Carson staff about the potential of Pinon Canyon expansion, I was assured that the only land the Army would acquire would be from willing sellers. The Army said that neither eminent domain nor condemnation would be used to expand Pinon Canyon. At a town hall meeting in Trinidad, Colorado on February 15, 2006, Fort Carson officials reiterated that claim. “Carson’s deputy commander temporarily put Eastern Las Animas County landowners at ease Wednesday by declaring the Army will not condemn anyone’s land if it expands Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site” (Pueblo Chieftain, 2/16/2006). I found this news too good to be true.

Apparently the Army made an about-face. After an inquiry to the Army, I received a letter on May 12, 2006. The response read, “Should the Army take on a project of such importance as the PCMS expansion, it is the Army’s view that the use of eminent domain, if required, is an appropriate exercise of authority and that condemnation is an important acquisition tool that should be available.” I continue to be disappointed that the Army switched its position on such an important matter, especially since it fed into pre-existing animosity and distrust about the Army that lingers from the original Pinon Canyon acquisition of 1982.

At the same townhall meeting in Pueblo, Fort Carson staff explained the need for a 26-mile buffer zone. Is that really necessary? Could you imagine losing your home to a buffer zone? Furthermore, Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site has been underutilized since its inception. Many locals speculate that prior to 2006 it was never used in more than three trainings in one year. Simply put, the Army has neglected to make a compelling reason to acquire an additional 418,000 acres.

Salazar also stresses in the letter that his decision to oppose the expansion in not in opposition to the U.S. Armed Forces.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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