Twenty-five years ago, the Department of Defense took over 235,000 acres of ranchland in southeastern Colorado -- the largest condemnation of private property in the country. And the Army's not done yet. Six years ago, word surfaced that the feds would try to add another 400,000 acres to the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, and for the past three years, Congress has approved a prohibition on the Army's use of any appropriated funds to expand PCMS.
Last session, the Colorado Legislature also passed a measure prohibiting the State Land Board from selling or leasing any land to the federal government for the purpose of expanding Pinon Canyon.
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But the local ranchers behind the group "Not 1 More Acre!" recently learned that the Army may be planning an end run around Congress, planning for Fort Carson to annex PCMS, which would remove the pesky necessity of having Congress sign off on any additional land grabs from families that have worked this land for generations.
So yesterday, several Colorado legislators who represent southeastern Colorado sent an urgent request to senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, to support the following amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that may be up for a vote this week: "No funds shall be expended to create Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site as a sub-installation of Fort Carson."
"The Army's covert actions trying to annex PCMS into Fort Carson would allow them to spend money towards expansion," the lawmakers wrote. "This would be clearly in contempt of Congress.... It is due time that the Army stop using backhanded attempts to force our farmers and ranchers off their land. We beg you to stand up with people across our state and national opposing the expansion at Pinon Canyon."
Ten days ago, Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll joined Representative Wes McKinley on a trail ride through some of the land the Army is eying. "Even if we just lose 100,000 acres, it's a huge loss," Carroll says. "And the Army taking over a quarter of our state? That's unacceptable."