Denver Direct: “Fight on!” vows Not 1 More Acre! as ban on DOD’s Piñon Canyon expansion dies

Saturday, January 25, 2014

“Fight on!” vows Not 1 More Acre! as ban on DOD’s Piñon Canyon expansion dies

By Robert Ewegen

Scorched Earth — Warhorse Rampage

TRINIDAD, Colorado – Leaders and supporters of Not 1 More Acre! – the watchdog group spearheading the fight to save generational and national grasslands of the Southern Great Plains from a massive military land grab – sounded a John Paul Jones-style defiance this week after Congress removed a comprehensive funding ban that has parried the military’s plan to seize 6.9 million acres to engorge the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site since word of the secret project was leaked to ranchers in 2006.

Removal of the funding ban scraps Congressional restrictions that have also stopped efforts to massively increase military operations and activities by heavy and all-terrain armored vehicles, aviation units, lasers and weaponized drones at the headwinds of the Dust Bowl. Removal of the ban also permits the military to resume secret planning efforts to launch a new land grab at some future date after opposition to such expansion has lost momentum.

“Realistically, we know we can’t restore the funding ban to the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that passed the House and Senate and was signed by the President January 17, Aguerre said.

“But as John Paul Jones said, ‘We have not yet begun to fight when it comes to the greater, ongoing, struggle to protect the site that has been identified as the headwinds of the 1930s Dust Bowl from further abuse such as that afflicted by Warhorse Rampage maneuvers.

And we will be alert to future signs that the Pentagon may be planning another round of purchases or condemnations to expand the site, which it could easily do with future Congressional approval – approval that taxpayers won’t know about until it is too late.

“While we thank the many citizens who rallied to this and earlier efforts to save the funding ban, we know it is time to move on to the next fight in our battle for the Southern Great Plains. Our funding ban was originally passed in 2007 after open public hearings and a courageous fight waged by then U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.

In contrast, this appropriations bill was done in the back room by committee staff people over the holidays – with the connivance of Rep. Cory Gardner, who newly represents the military maneuver site, and of Sen. Mark Udall. They killed our funding ban. It is a done deal with no way to alter it,” Aguerre said.

“When Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bills, twelve of them, start moving next month the funding ban will not be there to renew. That means to restore the funding ban, its language would have to go to the full floor of the House and the Senate. There is not a single member – much less two, one from the House and another from the Senate – of Colorado’s current delegation with the guts to represent everyday people against special interests and other delegation members in her own party the way Marilyn Musgrave did,” observed Aguerre.

Even though PCMS was not technically in her district, Rep. Musgrave knew the threat that the massive expansion would have posed to family ranchers and the whole Southern Plains region.

Thus, she crafted simple, understandable language that prohibits spending on any aspect of military expansion at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. Representative Musgrave personally secured the support of her party’s leadership and then worked across the aisle to overwhelmingly pass the funding ban.

But in the 2012 Congressional Redistricting, Las Animas County, which hosts the contentious military maneuver site, was moved to the 4th Congressional District, which is now represented by Gardner. That redistricting removed the funding ban from the protective hands of strong, vocal support all around western Colorado and placed it in Gardner’s hands to throw under the bus. He wasted no time doing just that for special interests feeding his political ambition.

“Gardner, without any advance public hearings, drafted language that replaced the explicit and comprehensive seven-year-old funding ban with language that is already in the law and is a meaningless substitute for the stronger funding ban that was killed by mutual consent between Gardner and Udall,” Aguerre said.

“Udall, for his part, was willing to throw the seven-year-old funding ban under the bus in return for a letter from the Pentagon pretending to have more authority than Congress in determining how much and when land will be seized for military operations. This time the Pentagon produced a letter saying it was withdrawing a piece of administrative technical minutiae that would return expansion back to ‘square one.’ ”

The blue smoke and mirrors gets thicker when we know that by killing the funding ban, it is the Gardner /Udall legislation that opens the door to the next round of secret joint forces military expansion planning while maximizing use and destruction of the existing site at the headwinds of the Dust Bowl.

Why did Udall need to get rid of our funding ban? At Not 1 More Acre! we bet it has everything to do with the new $3.5 billion dollar Heavy Combat Aviation Brigade he ordered up from his committee positions on Army Services and Intelligence to be stationed at an encroached urban military base that doesn’t have room to maneuver it. That cash-flush house of cards falls apart when spending on any aspect of expansion at DOD’s Piñon Canyon Manuever Site is prohibited, as the funding ban did. The founders called it the ‘power of the purse.’

This spring the most lethal integrated electronic warfare weapons system on the market – Udall’s new $3.5 billion Heavy Combat Aviation Brigade – will take a significant step closer to turning the headwinds of the Dust Bowl at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site into a 24/7 base of operations.

“We can end this nightmare. And, we should try. The Southern Great Plains belongs to each of us. Here, we can let our eyes and imaginations roam while standing in a 150-million-year-old dinosaur footprint. To the right, we can see the ancient Purgatoire River ribboning into its canyon, while looking left we see tipi rings of the Jicarilla Apache. At the horizon the Santa Fe Trail heads north to Bent’s Fort and south through the mountains to Taos. Straight ahead you can see a patina rock wall and be fascinated by pictographs left 17,000 years ago by the first humans to record wonders of this native shortgrass prairie.

Communities of every kind at home on the grasslands – the headwinds of the Dust Bowl at the top of the Southern Great Plains – have achieved a delicate but ongoing recovery from the worst environmental disaster in United States history. That disaster was brought on by bad government policies that required homesteaders to plow lands where the shortgrass ecosystem had supported Native peoples, buffalo and a richly unique array of wildlife for tens of thousands of years. Today, generational ranchlands and National Grasslands keep the shortgrass in place, protecting the soil and the economy of the Southern Plains.

“We must stop misguided governmental policies – here wrapped under the rubric of national defense — which spell another catastrophe for the Southern Plains. The supporters of Not 1 More Acre! pledge to stay vigilant and fight for every precious inch of the last shortgrass prairie in all the American Great Plains” Aguerre said.

Bob Ewegen had a 45-year career in journalism, including more than 36 years with The Denver Post, before becoming Director of Research and Communications at the Ewegen Law Firm in Denver. The firm, headed by his daughter, attorney Misty Ewegen, represents Not 1 More Acre.