|Army Document Reveals Plan to Take 7 Million Acres in SE Colorado
TRINIDAD, Colorado (Friday, October 24):
The Pentagon has been planning since at least 2004 to acquire almost 7 million acres in southeastern Colorado, forcing more than 17,000 residents off their land to establish the largest military base in the world, according to documents obtained in a federal court case.
The unprecedented acquisition of 6.9 million acres, or 10,800 square miles, of private and public land would result in a military reservation larger than some states, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey. The multi-service battlefield would be more than triple the size of the enormous White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, which at 3,200 square miles is currently the largest military installation in the United States. It would undermine the whole southeastern corner of Colorado east of the Rockies destroying the last intact shortgrass prairie remaining in the American Great Plains.
The May 2004 policy document prepared by Fort Carson was obtained as part of a federal court challenge to Pentagon plans to expand the size and boundaries of the 238,000-acre Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS). A copy of the document, titled “Analysis of Alternatives Study: Pinon Canyon Manueuver Site, Colorado,” can be found at www.not1moreacre.net/docs .
Expansion opposition group Not 1 More Acre! is suing the Army over violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) associated with the Pinon Canyon Transformation Environmental Impact Statement issued in 2006. NEPA requires public disclosure of major federal actions.
The 2004 document strongly supports the use of 5.9 million acres of private land and 1 million acres of public land across five counties to form an installation for training all branches of the US military as well as “allied forces.” The region was overcome by the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and includes the Comanche National Grassland the largest expanse of prairie set aside for restoration from that era.
The Pentagon’s analysis makes clear that the land acquisition was designed to take place in many phases, with the first phase matching almost exactly the Army’s current push for about 100,000 acres next to the PCMS.
Rancher and Not 1 More Acre! board member Mack Louden said the document revealed the true scale of the Pentagon’s ambitions to swallow southeastern Colorado.
“This report also shows that far from compromising its plans, the Army is actually sticking almost exactly to the phased acquisition laid out in this document,” Louden said. “Army assistant secretary Keith Eastin has stated publicly that the Pentagon will be back for more land in the future.”
“People need to understand the sheer size of this planned land grab and the disastrous consequences of letting the Pentagon get one more acre. The damage to this fragile region and the rare wildlife it supports would be catastrophic. Ranchers whose relationships with the native grasslands go back many generations would lose their lands and their livelihoods. The region’s family ranching and agriculture-based economy and the communities that depend upon it would be devastated. And a vast trove of historical, archaeological and paleontological treasures would be lost.”
Jim Herrell, a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Army explained, “Now we see why the Army plans to build extensive facilities and intensify use on the 238,000 acres they already have but rarely used. The Army got its foot in the door in the 1980s with promises that they’d never be back and there would be no live-fire. Those promises are broken. Letting the Pentagon go ahead with their plan inside and outside the PCMS would open the gate to an unconscionable drain on taxpayers.“
“ Every level of democracy has voiced its opposition to the expansion of the size and boundaries at Pinon Canyon clearly and repeatedly yet the Pentagon and its contractors refuse to heed the will of the people,” added Mr. Herrell.
On September 31 President George W. Bush signed into law legislation that continues a Congressional ban first adopted in 2007 on funding for all aspects of the Pinon Canyon expansion plan.
The ban – led by Colorado’s Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R, 4th CD) and co-sponsored by Rep. John Salazar (D, 3rd CD) – prevents any expenditure on expanding facilities within the existing 238,000-acre PCMS or acquiring additional land. The Government Accountability Office is investigating numerous Army violations of that ban and is due to report later this year.
Not 1 More Acre!
Purgatoire, Apishapa & Comanche Grassland Trust
PO Box 773
Trinidad, Colorado 81082