The U.S. Senate is close to approving a $72 billion military construction budget that would effectively prevent the Army from spending any money to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site for another year. But opponents of the expansion are by no means breathing easy.Despite the explicit prohibition on any funding for eminent domain as detailed in the House version of the bill, proponents of the expansion want the U.S. Army to be allowed to solicit willing sellers near the training site. And there’s no guarantee that Colorado’s two Senators – Republican Wayne Allard and Democrat Ken Salazar – won’t leave the door open for a similar gambit in the Senate version.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) led the effort to allow the Army to circumvent the spending ban. Lamborn is the Colorado representative who attached language to the House version of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act that allows the solicitation of “willing sellers.” But Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Rep. John Salazar (D-CO), who back ranchers and other expansion opponents, say Lamborn’s attachment conflicts with the expansion moratorium.
Last year, the House and Senate sided with the Pinon Canyon opponents, so how that will be worked out remains to be seen. But John Salazar said the continuing moratorium would prevent the Army from acquiring land even if officials go ahead in soliciting landowners. “I am proud to report that this bill continues the funding ban to prevent the Army from expanding Pinon Canyon,” Salazar said in a statement to the press after the House version was passed.
Lon Robertson, a rancher and the leader of the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, says he’s furious about Lamborn’s maneuvering. “(Salazar and Musgrave) authored legislation banning all funding for any expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site; a majority of the U.S. House and Senate approved the bill; and President Bush, the commander in chief, signed it into law. Is Army Assistant Secretary Keith Eastin that unfamiliar with the chain of command that he believes he can go ahead and spend taxpayer dollars anyway? The Army cannot explain why they need this land and why they can’t train on the 25 million acres already owned by the military,” Robertson says.