Thursday, February 15, 2007

Army Land Grabs and Dead Cattle

Ranchers in southeastern Colorado found themselves doubly screwed by the feds this week. On Monday, the USDA denied disaster status and low-interest loans to ranchers who lost dozens of cattle when January blizzards on the plains stranded them for hundreds of miles in all directions.

To add insult to injury, the Pentagon on Valentine's Day approved the Army's effort to seek millions of acres of land between Pueblo and Trinidad, to expand the Pinon Canyon training site for Fort Carson. In most cases, this affects the same ranchers that were denied USDA aid. The area is massive, encompassing several small towns between Trinidad and La Junta. The Army already conducted a series of Environmental Impact hearings last fall, and now apparently has to go through the same process again. Expansion opponent Bill Sulzman wonders if a boycott of the EIS process might be in order.

Country-cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey is planning a benefit concert for the ranchers' blizzard losses in Pueblo on March 18. Meanwhile, the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition is moving into full swing in response to the Pentagon action. What is a travesty is that some Colorado environmental groups seem to tacitly support Army expansion plans, under a twisted belief that the Pentagon would be better land stewards than a bunch of libertarian ranchers. Environmentalists should never work with the Pentagon. Even if ranchers and tree-huggers may not always see eye to eye, we need to support these folks in getting the disaster relief they need, and in opposing the Army's crazy plans for extending Fort Carson to the New Mexico border.

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