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CICA Opposes Pinion Canyon Expansion Plan

 

The Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association (CICA) board of directors have announced that they unanimously and vigorously oppose expansion of the Pinon Canyon Manuever Site (PCMS), located southeast of Fort Carson. The proposed expansion involves 750,000 to 2.5 million acres and hundreds of independent ranching operations, some of which have been family-owned and operated for generations.

 

“CICA has been working diligently to oppose this plan, devoting countless resources to mount a powerful and appropriate defense for Colorado's cattle producers endangered by this proposed expansion,” said Kimmi Lewis, CICA Secretary and chair of CICA's Property Rights Committee.

 

“Three CICA directors and several members traveled to Washington, D.C. earlier this year and met with Colorado's policy decision-makers to discuss our concerns and express our opposition.

 

“CICA's voting membership consists solely of cattle producers. CICA is the only cattlemen's organization in Colorado that has no alliances with environmental activist groups like the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund or other environmental extremists,” added Lewis.

 

On April 27, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., announced he would host a public meeting in Pueblo on May 13 for public discussion of the proposed expansion. “I certainly understand the concerns related to the proposed expansion, and I want to ensure that each of you has the opportunity to have these concerns heard by those directly working on such expansion proposals,” said Salazar.

 

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Robert Rawlings Public Library on East Abriendo Avenue in Pueblo. Representatives of Fort Carson and the Pentagon have been invited to participate.

 

PCMS is currently the second largest Department of Defense training site in the nation.

 

The DOD manages about 25 million acres nationwide. Purchase of the current PCMS site, consisting of 245,000 acres, was completed on Sept. 17, 1983 at an approximate cost of $26 million. An additional $2 million was used for “relocation” of 11 landowners and for school bond relief. About one-half of the PCMS was acquired through the process of condemnation. (Information obtained from DOD Web sites)

 

 

 

The CICA board of directors released the following quote:

 

“CICA sincerely appreciates Sen. Salazar's response to our request for his involvement in this contentious issue. He has specifically requested that any recommendation regarding the possible expansion of PCMS be tabled until the Army and DOD have had the opportunity to hear from the People of Colorado. It is now incumbent upon us to participate in the scheduled meeting for a thorough discussion of our concerns. We applaud Senator Salazar for providing this opportunity.

 

“CICA believes the federal government's action to expand the PCMS is the equivalent of an environmental land grab that victimizes Colorado's ranching industry, removing thousands of acres of productive agricultural land from the state's tax base and erasing independent family-owned ranching and farming operations from the landscape.

 

“Representatives of Fort Carson and the Department of Defense have failed to provide concrete information about the exact number of acres involved in the planned expansion, nor is there any clear information about the number of families to be displaced by the expansion. Many of the families living in the targeted area now fear the threat of losing their homes and land to the DOD through the condemnation and eminent domain process if they are not willing to sell their property if the PCMS expansion plan is approved.

 

“A map that surfaced during a Southern Colorado Livestock Association meeting was confirmed by Karen Edge, Outreach Coordinator for the PCMS project (Pueblo Chieftain report April 15, 2006), as one of the agency's planning maps. This particular map indicates 2.5 million acres are involved in the taking. The map matches exactly the Wildlands Project map.

 

“The Wildlands Project was constructed by more than 500 environmental and socialist groups from all over the world and is a global effort to establish corridors of land throughout America and the world as wildlife habitat areas. To accomplish these goals, the Wildland Project will seize private land through condemnation procedures or via willing sellers. Landowners in the State of Nebraska are already engaged in fighting off this global land seizure effort.

 

“Long-standing alliances between the U.S. Army, the DOD and environmental activist groups like the Nature Conservancy are an integral part of the PCMS expansion plan, leaving many ranchers uncomfortable and distrustful.

 

“The PCMS expansion plan incorporates a Private Lands Initiative, which is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Army Forces Command, the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which seeks to annex additional land around the borders of the installation, creating a “buffer zone”, removing even more land from productive purposes. The Nature Conservancy has appropriated seven million dollars to help create this “buffer zone”. CICA believes the entire expansion plan is a clear and present danger to not only Colorado's agricultural industry, but to the affected communities and school districts that will be absorbed in the expansion.

 

 

“The Department of Defense and the Nature Conservancy are focused on developing a buffer zone west of Pinon Canyon and along the Purgatoire River. The Nature Conservancy has consistently listed that area as one of its priority conservation areas since 1999. The Nature Conservancy's website shows the Department of Defense recently awarded the Conservancy $300,000 to update the Central Shortgrass Prairie Ecoregional Assessment, covering the eastern plains of Colorado and portions of Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. The assessment recommends an alarming portfolio of targeted conservation areas.

 

“The Nature Conservancy report goes further: ‘Additionally, the Nature Conservancy has been working with the Department of Defense to protect buffer areas - lands that border military bases - in southeastern Colorado, just as they are doing around Ft. Hood in Texas. The Department of Defense seeks to guard against residential encroachment, while the Conservancy seeks to protect habitat for plants and animals within those buffer zones. Together, we have already invested in a conservation lease that protects prairie habitat bordering the entire southern boundary of Fort Carson, south of Colorado Springs.'”

 

“It is illogical for the DOD to expand a military training site in the landscape of southeastern Colorado when modern day warfare takes place in desert terrains, with emphasis on urban tactics. CICA does not believe the PCMS expansion plan is a prudent use of taxpayer dollars or resources.

 

“With the mounting national debt, rising oil prices and the exploding trade deficit, it is illogical for the U.S. government to spend millions of dollars to expand a military maneuvers site that threatens our rural communities, schools, our very homes and livelihoods. America can no longer tolerate the erosion of independent landowners and our agricultural industry. Therefore, CICA adamantly opposes the PCMS expansion plan, and we urge Colorado's elected delegation to join us in opposition.”

 

Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association (CICA) is Colorado's fastest-growing grassroots cattle producer organization, representing cattle growers on a state and national level. CICA is an R-CALF USA state affiliate. Membership dues are $50 annually. To join contact Kimmi Lewis at 719.384.4093 or email at mvrkim@rural-com.com.