Wake-Up Call: Army maneuvers appeal of Pinon Canyon ruling

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The Army wants to take over more of the ranchland around Pinon Canyon -- but it's not accounting adequately for the 238,000 acres it already has, taken 25 years ago in the largest land grab in the country's history.

On September 8, Judge Richard Matsch ruled that the Army's 2007 environmental review of operations at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, where it trains troops about four months a year, was inadequate to justify increasing operations to 365 days a year. When the Army created the PCMS in the 1980s, an environmental review had determined that the semiarid land couldn't accommodate perpetual use for training, Matsch noted, and sent the Army back to the drawing board.

On Monday, November 9, the Army appealed Matsch's ruling.

Matsch's ruling came in response to a suit filed by Not 1 More Acre, the group of ranchers and other residents of the area east of Trinidad fighting the Army's attempts to expand not just the PCMS's duration of operation, but also its size. Some of the acreage under consideration has been ranched by the same families for five generations -- adding fuel to the residents' ire.

And Senator Michael Bennet just handed the group some more ammo, urging the Army to drop its appeal.

"The Army's decision to move forward with more litigation sends a hostile message to the farmers and ranchers in Southern Colorado: The Army is more concerned about winning than repairing this relationship over the long-term," Bennet wrote Army Secretary John McHugh yesterday. "It's time to put an end to the adversarial relationship between these Colorado residents -- my constituents -- and the Army."

And it's time for the Army to recognize that the southeastern corner of this state is not a country to conquer.

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