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Pinon Canyon: Scott Tipton blasts Army effort to rename site

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No question, rebranding can be a bitch. Is that Slinky in the CenturyLink commercials really an improvement over the Qwest lightbeam? But nothing quite spells "public relations fiasco" like the U.S. Army's clueless attempt to change the name of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site to "Fort Carson South," after years of controversy and broken promises over the site and a leaked plan to acquire millions of more acres in southern Colorado.

The Army acquired 235,000 acres -- 367 square miles -- in the heart of southeast Colorado in the 1980s to expand the training capacity for troops stationed at Fort Carson. The purchase of the Pinon Canyon site involved condemnation proceedings and touched off a feud with local ranchers that persists to this day.

Although locals were successful in implementing a Congressional ban on expansion of the site a few years ago (and getting it renewed this year), ongoing concerns have also been raised about environmental damage to the area and tank maneuvers trashing sensitive historic and archaeological sites, as detailed in my February feature "The War Next Door."

All of which leaves Representative Scott Tipton, who's been the point man lately for resident outrage about the site, fuming over the news of a possible name change. Tipton was particularly incensed that he learned about the "Fort Carson South" proposal from the Pueblo Chieftain, according to this account, and scolded the base brass for not keeping him in the loop.

"Such talks, proposals or actions by the Army behind closed doors only create further speculation and distrust in Southern Colorado, " Tipton wrote in a letter to Colonel Robert McLaughlin, the Fort Carson garrison commander. "Due to the history and sensitivity regarding the maneuver site, I would recommend complete transparency in the future from the Army on any matters associated with Pinon Canyon."

Complete transparency has never been a military priority. McLaughlin has declared an interest in developing a better relationship with the neighbors in the Trinidad-La Junta area; but there's some basic language issues to work out before the pacification operation can begin.

More from our News archive: "Scott Tipton under pressure: Can he restore Pinon Canyon funding ban?"

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