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Piñon Canyon backers say adverse measure killed

June 17, 2009
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photo - Rancher Mack Louden, of Branson, Colo., talks about the lawsuit that he and other ranchers have filed against the U.S. Army aimed at preventing them from expanding the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site after a hearing at the federal courthouse in Denver. Photo by  (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Rancher Mack Louden, of Branson, Colo., talks about the lawsuit that he and other ranchers have filed against the U.S. Army aimed at preventing them from expanding the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site after a hearing at the federal courthouse in Denver. Photo by (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) 

DENVER - The battle over expanding a southeast Colorado Army training site took another twist Wednesday when Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn said a House committee killed an amendment aimed at blocking expansion.

But a spokesman for Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat who opposes expansion, said that was moot because the proposal that was killed simply reiterated what is already existing law.

Lamborn, who supports the expansion, said Wednesday the proposal killed in the House Armed Services Committee would've required congressional authorization before the Army acquired additional for training ranges.

Salazar's spokesman Eric Wortman said congressional authorization already is required by law, and Lamborn said that even if the killed proposal had passed, it would not have been fatal to an expansion of Piñon Canyon.

On Tuesday, Salazar said the House Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies voted to continue a ban for another year on spending money to increase the size of the Piñon Canyon site in Colorado.

Some farmers and ranchers oppose the expansion on their land, saying it would take too much land out of agricultural production. Some have filed a pending lawsuit in federal court to try to block an expansion, saying the military hasn't carefully considered the environmental impacts of stepped-up training.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Ritter has signed into law a bill barring the state from selling or leasing land to the Army for the expansion.

The Army is looking to add 100,000 acres to Piñon Canyon.

Lamborn said the Army will only work with willing sellers.

"There is no threat of eminent domain or condemnation," Lamborn said Wednesday.

He said he has heard that some landowners are willing to negotiate but that they are reluctant to say anything publicly in the face of vocal opposition by some neighbors.

"I believe that people should not be able to veto another person's use of their own private property," Lamborn said.

Assistant Army Secretary Keith Eastin said in a letter to Lamborn in April that an expansion could provide $140 million worth of improvements and would spend $9 million a year on operations and payroll for about 100 jobs.

"There's tremendous economic opportunity for people in Las Animas County to have a $9 million payroll for what the Army would like to do at Piñon Canyon," Lamborn said.

 

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