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Pinon Canyon: Scott Tipton gets ban on military expansion restored

Under pressure from ranchers to take as strong a stand against Army expansion in southern Colorado as his Democrat predecessor, freshman Republican congressman Scott Tipton managed to get a funding ban reinstated in a bill yesterday, earning him kudos from some of his sharpest critics. "Congressman Tipton backed up his words with action," gushes a communique from the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition. "We're back on track!!"

The funding ban, in place since 2008, has been a major barrier to the Army's plans to expand the 235,000-acre Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, used for large-scale training operations for troops from Fort Carson. As reported here, planning documents indicate that the Army has considered acquiring up to 7,000,000 acres around the site, mobilizing grass-roots groups such as the PCEOC to push back.

The opposition forces had a strong ally in Representative John Salazar. But since Tipton unseated Salazar last fall, some of his conciliatory statements about seeking a long-term resolution to the conflict have been greeted by locals with suspicion. And the disappearance of the ban in a military appropriations bill last week set off alarm bells, with community groups urging expansion opponents to flood Tipton's office with calls and e-mails.

At the eleventh hour, Tipton succeeded in getting the ban back in the bill, which now goes to the entire House Appropriations Committee. His move was the top story in today's Pueblo Chieftain and gives locals concerned about the economic and environmental impacts of ceding more land to military maneuvers a breather.

Declares the PCEOC blast, "Next stop... really long term (permanent) ban!!"

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site on horseback and by tank: 2 views of region under siege (VIDEO)."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast