In 1983, the Department of the Army took 235,000 acres of Southeastern Colorado for training exercises. Now they want 7,000,000 acres of private ranch land and National Grassland. And the national press, for some reason, will not investigate this outrage.
About three years ago, in response to what they claim is necessary for 21st Century military training, the Department of the Army announced a effort to acquire about 450,000 acres of the Purgatoire Valley in southeastern Colorado. The largest land grab in the history of the U.S. since the Indian Wars, this would be in addition to the 235,000 acre Pinyon Canyon site that they already own from the 1983 acquisition.
The response from the ranching community was overwhelmingly negative, involving a massive campaign to expose the military's broken promises since 1983, an exposé of a much larger initiative that would include almost 2 million acres, and a grassroots web-based organization to oppose the process. The Army, in response, has sent Pentagon officials to the region several times to plead their case. But ranchers, highly organized and angry, have met each visit with spirited resistance. During the summer of 2008, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Army was forced to release yet another plan that outlined the acquisition of about 7 million acres, which encompasses the greater part of southeastern Colorado, including Comanche National Grassland.
Colorado legislators are split on the issue, some favoring the Army plan to spur economic growth in the state, others reluctant to disturb the longstanding agricultural interests in the lower Arkansas and Purgatoire River Basins. Senator Ken Salazar, recently appointed to Secretary of the Interior, has ridden the fence since his election in 2004, while his brother, Representative John Salazar has been a stalwart defender of the ranchers. Re. Salazar and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave have led the charge in the U.S. Congress to pass a moratorium on military spending on these acquisitions. Such moratoria have passed easily in both houses of Congress. Oddly, although the local press has covered the story repeatedly, the national news appears uninterested in this story. I have written notes to 60 Minutes and Front Line, asking why the largest land grab in the history of the United States is not of interest to the national press. Interested parties can find information at pinyoncanyon,com