by Ralph Routon
Another year, another forceful action by Congress to put off funding for the Army to expand its Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site southeast of Pueblo.
Four members of Colorado's contingent in Congress have confirmed that the omnibus federal budget bill for 2010, which has been hammered out by a conference committee of U.S. Senate and House members, extends the prohibition against the Army putting money into Piñon Canyon expansion for the third consecutive year.
The announcement was made by Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey, Democrats whose districts include Piñon Canyon and surrounding areas, as well as Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall. Bennet released a statement saying, "With so much at stake and with the Army still unable to show us why it needs more land, the moratorium should be extended."
But this doesn't mean a truce in the ongoing battle over Piñon Canyon. It figures to become a prominent issue in the 2010 governor's race, even within the Republican primary as former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis has voiced his support of Army expansion (which will win him votes in El Paso County) while others in the state GOP take the other side. Gov. Bill Ritter has taken the landowners' side in opposing the Army expansion.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs has been outspoken in backing the Army's plans for Piñon Canyon.