EIS Reason Enough to End Pentagon’s Piñon Canyon Plan

Damage Done Would Be Vast and Irreparable

For immediate release
June 22, 2007

For more information or to arrange interviews,
contact: Jean Aguerre, 719-252-5145
Hugh Lamberton, 303-748-9099

KIM, Colorado (Friday, June 22)—The Final Environmental Impact Statement on Pentagon plans to upgrade the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado confirms that the expansion project would do vast and irreparable damage and should be dismissed on environmental grounds alone, opponents of the expansion said today.

The final Piñon Canyon Transformation EIS – placed on the Federal Register today – fails to address in any substantive way the many significant environmental issues raised during the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process. The Army’s “record of decision” on the EIS is expected within a month.

“The irreparable damage documented in this woefully inadequate EIS and in our testimonies speaks for itself,” president of the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition Lon Robertson said. “Why isn’t the abundant evidence of the destruction this project will bring enough to make Colorado’s senators help put an end to it?”

“Further studies are only attempts to drag this process out for years – along with the terrible uncertainty shadowing the lives of those who would be affected.”

The existing and underutilized 238,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site was created in 1983 – much of it through the use of eminent domain. At the time the military promised there would be no expansion and no live ballistics. Both those promises have now been broken and the Pentagon is seeking to triple the size of the PCMS despite the fact that many ranchers in its target areas are unwilling sellers.

Mr. Robertson said the Army has stated that the upgrade and expansion of the PCMS will greatly increase the frequency of heavy-vehicle training exercises and overflights and will allow the testing of lethal high-tech weapons systems. The Army has also said these exercises would involve other defense agencies and foreign troops.

“The impact on the thousands of species that live in this unspoiled bioregion – including endangered species – would be devastating,” he said.

Southeastern Colorado’s ecosystem is a unique combination of canyonlands, forested mesas, grasslands and riparian systems.  It includes one of the largest intact shortgrass prairie and canyonland landscapes in the West and contains critical riparian systems that provide habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna. These systems cannot be replaced if destroyed.  

Mr. Robertson said southeastern Colorado was devastated during the great dust storms of the Depression. Sustainable agricultural practices by long-term ranching families have been crucial in stabilizing and conserving the soil of this region.   

“Area residents are concerned that the loss of vegetation and increased erosion resulting from expanded heavy vehicle exercises and the testing of lethal high-tech weapons systems will greatly increase the risk to species and the chances of a second dust bowl.”

Also, grasslands are now recognized as among the most effective of carbon sinks and therefore a vital tool in addressing global warming. University of Minnesota climate scientist Professor David Tilman believes that significant new disturbance of the grasslands would probably transform them “from a carbon sink into a carbon source”.

Greatly exacerbating the environmental threat associated with the expansion is the military’s determination to eliminate environmental oversight. The Piñon Canyon Transformation EIS asserts that the expansion project is due to a shift in training policy based on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s “Transformation” doctrine.  

In 2003 senior Congressional leaders wrote to then Speaker Dennis Hastert and then Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, expressing grave concerns about the Transformation doctrine and Pentagon attempts to eliminate environmental regulation and Congressional budget oversight. The proposals they found so disturbing are still very much alive within the Department of Defense and are directly cited in the final Piñon Canyon Transformation EIS.

The 2003 letter, signed by Congressmen Henry Waxman, Dave Obey, Ike Skelton and John Spratt, warned the Department of Defense was seeking “unprecedented reductions in Congressional oversight and public accountability, and in some cases unlimited increases in the powers of the Secretary of Defense”. This included “wholesale exemptions from a host of critical environmental statutes”.  

“The common thread linking all of these provisions is an effort by the Department to substantially reduce Congressional oversight and public accountability,” the letter said.

Mr. Robertson said all Coloradoans should be alarmed by the Pentagon’s efforts to create a “black box”, impervious to public and Congressional scrutiny, around lethal high-tech weapons systems testing and training.  

“The Piñon Canyon Transformation EIS is part of this plan,” he said. “This is not about better training for the troops today. This is about building a secret multi-billion-dollar playground for the Pentagon and its military contractors – at the taxpayers’ expense.”

To prove that areas outside the PCMS will be affected, below is a picture of helicopter parked on the dinosaur tracksite at the Picket Wire Canyonlands, a protected area in the US Forest Service.

“Army officials say that the trackway has been spared from inclusion in its massive expansion plans, yet as this picture shows that seems to make no difference at all,” Mr. Robertson said.

Senator Allard Spooked by Pentagon Threats on Piñon Canyon

For immediate release
June 21, 2007
For more information or to arrange
interviews, contact: Jean Aguerre, 719-252-5145
Hugh Lamberton, 303-748-9099


KIM, Colorado (Thursday, June 21)—Opponents of the Pentagon plan to massively expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado today  called on Senator Wayne Allard to stand up to the  military’s latest bullying tactics.

President of the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition Lon Robertson said the broad coalition standing against the expansion plan would not be intimidated by military threats about the future of Fort Carson and neither should Sen. Allard.

“If Senator Allard spent as much time talking to landowners as he does to the military, he would realize the dire social, economic, environmental and scientific consequences of the Pentagon’s plan,” Mr. Robertson said.

“He might also start to wonder whether the Army is really being honest with him. He was reportedly told by the Army that it could achieve its goals through willing sellers – yet it is clear that there are many unwilling sellers in the areas targeted for the expansion.”

“Now Sen. Allard says the Army is making threats about the future of Fort Carson. Yet the Pentagon’s own 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended sending additional troops to Fort Carson regardless of whether the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site was expanded or not.”

Mr. Robertson said the will of the people and their elected representatives – on both sides of politics – was clear on this issue. Fourteen county commissions voted unanimously against the plan. Eighty-eight per cent of Colorado’s state legislators voted to block the use of condemnation for the expansion. Ninety-one per cent of US Representatives voted just last week to stop funding for the expansion.

“Yet despite overwhelming opposition at every level – community, county, state and in the US House of Representatives – Colorado Senators Allard and Ken Salazar continue to entertain the military’s reckless and destructive plan to triple the size of the existing and underutilized 238,000-acre site.”

“Talk of ‘win-win’ situations is absurd. There won’t be any ‘win’ for the fourth- and fifth-generation ranching families forced off their land. There won’t be any ‘win’ for the state’s agricultural economy which the expansion plan will devastate. There won’t be any ‘win’ for the diverse wildlife dependent on the region’s grasslands.”  
  
“We urge both Senators to just say ‘No’ to the expansion and help dispel the dark cloud that has hung over the Piñon Canyon region for the past year and a half.”



PCEOC   /  Not 1 More Acre!  
                  /  Purgatoire, Apishipa & Comanche Grassland Trust
You Can't Bomb Land and Ranch It at the Same Time

Senator Salazar Urged to Rethink Position on Piñon Canyon Plan
 
For immediate release
June 20, 2007
For more information or to arrange
interviews, contact: Jean Aguerre, 719-252-5145
Hugh Lamberton, 303-748-9099


TRINIDAD, Colorado (Wednesday, June 20)-All Coloradoans should be greatly concerned by Senator Ken Salazar's continuing support for Pentagon plans to massively expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in the state's southeast, opponents of the expansion said today.

Despite overwhelming opposition at every level - community, county, state and in the US House of Representatives - Sen. Salazar continues to support the military's reckless and destructive plan to triple the size of the existing and underutilized 238,000-acre site. In his comments today, Sen. Salazar even outbids the Pentagon's public statements to date by calling for a permanent base to be built at Piñon Canyon.

"The will of the people and their elected representatives on both sides of politics is clear on this issue," president of the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition Lon Robertson said today. "Rhetoric about 'win-win' situations is simply designed to distract attention from the stark truth that this is a zero-sum game. You can't bomb land and ranch it at the same time."

"There won't be any 'win' for the fourth- and fifth-generation ranching families forced off their land. There won't be any 'win' for the state's agricultural economy which the expansion plan will devastate. There won't be any 'win' for the diverse wildlife dependent on the region's grasslands." 
 
Fourteen county commissions voted unanimously against the plan. Eighty-eight per cent of Colorado's state legislators voted to block the use of condemnation for the expansion. Ninety-one per cent of US Representatives voted just last week to stop funding for the expansion.

"We urge Sen. Salazar to just say 'No' to the expansion and help dispel the dark cloud that has hung over the Piñon Canyon region for the past year and a half. He says in his letter to Secretary Gates that he wants to protect 'the livelihood, property rights and way of life of the residents of Southeastern Colorado'. The best way he could do that is to stand with us in opposition to the expansion."

Mr. Robertson urged Sen. Salazar to meet with landowners to ensure he has a proper understanding of the dire consequences of the expansion plan.

"Sen. Salazar may not have had the opportunity to review all the available information. But those of us who have taken a long look at those consequences - ranchers and farmers, rural communities, environmentalists, historians, archaeologists - know that the expansion plan would bring about an across-the-board catastrophe - social, economic, environmental and scientific."

Mr. Robertson said Sen. Salazar's latest letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates accurately states that promises were made in the early 1980s that the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site would bring jobs and revenue to local communities. Yet not one of these promises was fulfilled.

"The people of southeastern Colorado are not interested in new promises. Our economy is based on agriculture and those related economies best suited to the area.  Why would Sen. Salazar want to transform the stable agricultural market economy we're rooted in into a federally funded welfare project? Why would we want transitory residents instead of generational family ranchers and rural family enterprises?"


 

Ranchers demand answers on the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site

 

Not 1 More Acre! Seeks Documents in Federal Court

 

For Immediate Release

Contacts: Lon Robertson, Not 1 More Acre!

Steve Harris, Merrill, Anderson and Harris, LLC 719-633-4421

 

KIM, Colorado – An alliance of Southern Colorado residents and others will file papers today in federal court demanding that the military produce records documents regarding the proposed expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site between Trinidad and La Junta.

 

Ranchers joined by Native Americans, conservationists, archeologists, paleontologists and other concerned citizens, working through the nonprofit organization Not 1 More Acre!, first requested information from the military on December 11, 2006. Under the Freedom of Information Act, a government agency has 20 days to respond to any request.

 

In this case, the military has yet to respond 66 days after the FOIA requests were filed, leaving the coalition to wonder what the military is hiding.

 

The FOIA requests were filed in response to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed expansion that was released in October. Not 1 More Acre! sought additional information in order to submit a statement within the initial public comment period, which has since been re-opened.

 

The public comment period closes tomorrow and Not 1 More Acre! still has not received any of the information needed to meaningfully comment on the DEIS.

 

The military operates on 25 million acres of real estate in the United States, including the 238,000-acre Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. With the proposed expansion of 418,577 acres, it would become the largest military training site in the world.  This is only the first phase of a 2.5 million-acre expansion reflected in a military map secured by the opposition.

 

“What do they need to do on this land that they can’t do on the 25 million acres around the nation they already have?” said Lon Robertson, a spokesman for Not 1 More Acre!

 

The proposed expansion includes 165 million-year-old dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs carved by the area’s original inhabitants, the richest archaeological resources in Colorado outside of Montezuma County (the locale of Mesa Verde), Apache and other Native American sacred sites, Hispanic Placitas and the last short and native grasslands in the American Great Plains. There are even ruts carved into the landscape from wagons on the Santa Fe Trail. All of these spectacular historical treasures and more are threatened by war training.

 

Yesterday, the Pentagon waived a moratorium on land acquisition to allow for the proposed expansion at Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. In commenting on the waiver, a Fort Carson spokesman said the military would “actively seek public comments to ensure that all interests are heard before any decisions are made.”

 

Not 1 More Acre! has requested records relating to the moratorium, the environmental impact of the current site, and correspondence between the military and the Department of Wildlife, the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies. Since the information has not been forthcoming, those concerned about the expansion have been forced to turn to the court for help.

 

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