Letters to the Editor

Piñon Canyon piece thorough, much-needed examination

Dear Jason,

Great job on the Piñon Canyon feature! It was the most in-depth piece that’s been done in quite some time and is a much-needed update in the context of the current governors’ race. I love the photos and the multimedia slide show. Good work!

I also like the quote about (Scott) McInnis spending two hours in the region. That says a lot. I believe that was the meeting he had with some opposition members in Walsenburg a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t leave those who attended with much of a sense that he might moderate his position.

There are a couple of points that most people miss in this whole discussion. First of all, the issue of eminent domain can never really be “off the table” until we have federal legislation to that effect. The Army made similar verbal commitments back in the ’80s, and then finally took most of the current site through condemnation. As recently as July, the new secretary of the Army, John McHugh, was unwilling to promise Sen. Udall that eminent domain would not be used.

Secondly, there is the issue of people potentially being condemned — not legally, but practically — if the Army gains a foothold, and property owners find themselves and their land existing as islands within a sea of live-fire rangeland. In such cases, they are condemned.

Thirdly, the whole property rights argument — that private citizens would have the right to sell to anyone they want to, including the U.S. Army — is erroneous at this stage. There is no question that private citizens have the right to sell. The point is that the Army doesn’t have the right to buy. They have been specifically barred from spending any funds for that purpose. Until they are authorized and funded by Congress, they have no business trying to buy land.

There’s a big difference between a rancher selling his land to another private party or selling it to the military. If it’s sold to another rancher, nothing changes much. But if it is sold to the military, it changes the land forever. It becomes depopulated, unproductive, polluted federal property that contributes nothing to our region’s economy or culture.

Again, thanks for a fabulous piece of journalism!

Doug Holdread