Udall sponsors measure on expansion at Pinon Canyon | SummitDaily.com

Udall sponsors measure on expansion at Pinon Canyon

DENVER ” A congressional committee approved a measure by Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to require the Army to take several steps before obtaining land in southeastern Colorado for a training site.

The measure was approved Wednesday by the House Armed Services Committee as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which now goes to the full House.

The Army wants to expand its 235,000-acre Pinon Canyon training site southwest of La Junta by 418,000 acres. Army officials say they need more training space because Fort Carson, south of Colorado Springs, is adding 10,000 more soldiers.

Officials haven’t ruled out using eminent domain to acquire the land.

Eminent domain is the power to seize private land for public use.

Udall’s bill would require the Army to do an environmental impact statement, consult with the state, obtain special permits, explore alternatives to buying the land and meet several other obligations. He said he agrees with other members of the state’s congressional delegation that any expansion must be a win-win situation for the Army and Colorado.

“No matter what the Army’s needs may be, we have a moral obligation to the landowners and families who live near Pinon Canyon, many of whom are desperately concerned about how this potential expansion will impact their livelihoods, their homes and communities,” Udall said.

Many area ranchers have been wary of their Army neighbor since the 1980s, when Fort Carson acquired 250,000 acres ” about half by eminent domain ” to create Pinon Canyon. Some are still bitter about how property owners were treated then.

A new state law withdraws Colorado’s consent for the government to acquire more land at Pinon Canyon. But supporters aren’t sure if the state really has the authority to say “no” to the federal government.

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