Saturday, March 14, 2009

Colo reps: Army ignoring Congress on training site

U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey accused the Army on Friday of ignoring the wishes of Congress by pushing ahead with plans to expand a southeast Colorado training site. The Colorado Democrats asked a House oversight committee to investigate why the Army was still trying to buy or lease more land for the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site despite a moratorium imposed by Congress on spending for the project. Markey accused the Army of showing a "blatant disregard" for Congress and an "apparent willingness to violate the trust of the people of southern Colorado." Army Assistant Secretary Keith Eastin said earlier Friday that the military wants to sign long-term leases to expand the site, rather than buying more land. Leasing might keep the land on the tax rolls because the land would remain in private hands. "We are talking to a number of landowners about their concerns and how we might work together to meet those concerns," Eastin said during a visit to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, where he was inspecting construction projects. He said he thinks some ranchers are ready to make a deal. "If my read is correct, there is a general interest in lowering the volume and making this a win-win," he said. Eastin said the military would expect to lease the land for decades rather than months. "Not 99 years, but long term," he said. "Long enough to amortize our investment." Salazar said Army officials asked him to endorse a lease agreement for the land, but he declined. Rancher Lon Robertson, president of the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, said leasing is just as bad as buying....Denver Post

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