Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lawmakers, ranchers warn Army on Pinon Canyon lease

News that Army officials were preparing to announce a lease agreement to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site rankled key Colorado lawmakers Tuesday as well as surrounding landowners. They say the Pentagon still has not justified the proposed expansion and is defying Congress in pursuing any acquisition in the face of a federal budget moratorium on the expansion. Rep. John Salazar, whose 3rd Congressional District includes Pinon Canyon, said he will oppose the Army acquiring additional land around the 238,000-acre training site - through purchase or lease - until Army officials guarantee that eminent domain will not be used against any landowner, a step Army officials have said they cannot legally offer. Salazar said he repeated his opposition to Keith Eastin, the Army's assistant secretary for installations, a week ago when Eastin asked him to support a lease agreement with Denver businessman Craig Walker, which would give the Army access to Walker's 70,000 acres south of the training area. "Those of us in Congress cannot limit what Craig Walker wants to do with his property, but we can decide how the Defense Department spends its money," said Salazar, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee...Pueblo Chieftain

I don't understand why the Army "cannot legally offer" to forgo eminent domain. Is it against the law to NOT use eminent domain? Show me that statute. If there is no such law, then the Army can "legally offer" to only deal with willing sellers. They may not want to limit their authority, but they can certainly "legally" do so.

I don't believe the Army needs this land, which I addressed in this previous post:

"The Base Structure Report(pdf) for FY 2008 contains the land profile for the Department of Defense. The introduction to the report states, "The Depart of Defense remains one of the world's largest 'landlords' with a physical plant consisting of more than 545,700 facilities (buildings, structures and linear structures) located on more than 5400 sites, on approximately 30 million acres."

The land profile further refines that to 29.8 million acres owned or controlled by DOD. More than 98% of the land is in the US, with the Army managing 52% and the Air Force 33%.

29.8 million acres equals 46,562.5 square miles. How do you put that in perspective? Let's try this: Of the Thirteen Original Colonies, six of them (Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire & Massachusetts) would fit into the land mass controlled by DOD, with 8359 square miles or 5.3 million acres left over. In other words, you could add another New Jersey.

29.8 million acres and they don't have enough land to practice? They may have a turf problem or a setting of priorities problem, but they don't have a lack of land problem."


Craig said...

Maybe a tax issue. There is a provision of the Tax Code that lets an owner who is subject to eminent domain to sell to the government and then get an extended period(2 Years) to acquire a similar property with a delay in owing taxes on the gain.
Know it sounds a little strange, but if the Army says no eminent domain, those owners cannot claim that provision.

The Westerner said...

Thanks for the info, I wasn't aware of the tax angle.

Still doesn't answer the question why the Army can't "legally offer" to forgo eminent domain.