Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Army, ranchers reach Piñon Canyon armistice

Officials from Las Animas County, the Army and Congress gathered here Monday to declare an armistice in the 10-year fight over Fort Carson's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. At the urging of Sen. Mark Udall, a Boulder County Democrat, Army Assistant Secretary Katherine Hammack used the paperwork equivalent of a wooden stake to kill expansion plans for the 235,000-acre training site. "It's kind of an emotional moment," said Las Animas County Commissioner Gary Hill, a rancher and neighbor of the training area who has been at war with the Army over expansion for years. In 2003, Army officials commissioned a study that found a need for more training land at Piñon - a requirement that eventually grew to 418,577 additional acres. The big number kicked off a revolt of sorts on the sparsely-populated ranchlands near the training area, east of Trinidad. Even as the Pentagon moved in 2007 to issue a waiver to land purchase rules that would fuel the Army's ambition, Congress moved to block expansion by passing a series of measures that banned spending for growth. Monday the Pentagon formally rescinded permission for the Army to seek expansion land. Hammack said the move was justified because the Army is cutting 80,000 soldiers from its roster as part of a plan to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget over 10 years, "The Army is shrinking and as the Army reduces in size, our training needs are reduced," Hammack said. The original Pinyon Canyon site was acquired at the height of the Cold War as a place where large formations of tanks could practice for fighting in Europe. In ensuing conflicts, the site has been used to simulate fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, Piñon Canyon has been at the center of controversy in southeastern Colorado since it opened in 1983. A significant portion of the original 235,000 acres was acquired through use of eminent domain, which allows government seizure of land for public use...more

Congratulations to all the folks involved, a great victory for private property.

The mention of the Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan brings me to something I have been thinking about for awhile:  How much has War cost ranchers in the U.S.?  How many ranching families have been sacrificed for training troops to go to War?  We know the DOD owns 28 million acres today, but I wonder how much land they controlled prior to WWII.


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