Friday, November 16, 2007

Colorado Ranchers Put Their Money On the Line

Ranchers donate cattle to fight Army’s Pinon plans
Auction steers money toward limiting expansion.


LA JUNTA - The fight against the Army's proposed expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site has invaded the dusty environs of the Winter Livestock Auction sale barn.

Calves and cows donated by ranchers across Southern Colorado were auctioned off Monday to raise funds for landowners who are fighting the planned 414,000-acre expansion.

The battle has been an intense one, pitting the Army's need to train soldiers against ranch families who have been on their land for several generations.

"We are here to sell our cattle to help with the opposition of this expansion. This is something important to all of us here," said Stan White, a rancher from Aguilar who donated a steer to be auctioned Monday.

White and his wife, Dee, also are donating a steer to be auctioned across U.S. 50 at La Junta Livestock on Wednesday.

White, who helped organize the auction, said he and others wanted to give people a new way to help stop the expansion.

"Everyone involved donated something here. Ranchers from all over donated cattle and the two sale barns have donated their time," White said.

La Junta is home to two high-volume livestock auction companies, making it one of the nation’s largest regional cattle markets. Both companies, Winter Livestock and La Junta Livestock, are selling the cattle at no cost.

Approximately 20 head of cattle were sold Monday. Proceeds will go to the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition.

Jerry Winford of Branson said many people also have offered to donate cash in lieu of an animal to help make it possible to continue the fight to save the land.

Kenny Gyurman of Model said he donated money because he didn't have cattle to sell.

"This is a big fight we have ahead of us and we need all the help we can get," Gyurman said.

Winford, who brought seven cattle to be auctioned Monday and Wednesday, said the auctions will help ensure the coalition’s continued success.

"It's absolutely critical that we get this (expansion) stopped. It doesn't only affect landowners out here, it affects the whole state of Colorado, especially Southeastern Colorado. If the Army gets what it wants, this sale barn won't be here in the next 15 years," Winford said.

"If we stop them now, then we hope to stop them for good," Gyurman said.


Maybe so. The ranchers understand that the longer this thing gets dragged out, the less chance of the opposition coalition prevailing. They also understand the Army has deep pockets, and few scruples.

That's why the one-year moratorium is a dangerous proposition, unless the land-owner's opposition coalition presses hard, desperately hard on all fronts. And they need a strategy, with time-line goals and objectives - which need to involve the whole of Colorado. Petition for legislative stumbling blocks to imminent domain. Keep the pressure up on Gov Ritter, Rep Salazar and Senator Salazar, who opened this can of worms in the first place. A mole in the DOD wouldn't hurt either - the Army's real strategy must be uncovered, exposed.

Make full use of the Freedom of Information Act. Had the ranchers known the full extent of the Army's intentions 25 years ago, perhaps they would not have let themselves be bullied into giving up their land. Count on the continuing obfuscation by the DOD, which has no qualms playing hard-ball.

Finally, don't let anyone succeed in making this an environmental issue. It's not an environmental issue. It might be tempting to throw down as many obstacles as possible, but an environmental stand-off will wind up in the courts. Human lives and destiny trump dead animal's remains. The environmental issue is a red herring - a ruse they'll use to break down opposition, by coming up with "an environmental-friendly plan" to "preserve the integrity of the dinosaur tracks", blah, blah.

And for Pete's sake, keep this out of the courts, if that's at all possible. The courts are known to have a very government-friendly attitude regarding the question of imminent domain.

The ranchers need to know who is on their side, and that means digging into information via the FOIA, both at the federal level - (see) Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and at state levels - (see) Open Government Guide.

If the ranchers of Colorado, and by proxy, the whole of Colorado, expect a good outcome, they had better be prepared to kick the Army's butt in the legislature. They will also need to hold the brothers Salazar's feet to the fire. They are, after all, politicians.

It's obvious where Senator Allard is getting his bread buttered. Maybe it's time to remind him he serves at the pleasure of the people of Colorado.

I'm sure the opposition coalition knows all this - I just feel a need to say it.

Oh, and when the Army minions start with the, "Where's your patriotism?" - just remember, when an opponent feels he is losing the argument on sound, rational grounds, he will often drag out the argumentum ad hominem ploy, rather than address the substance of the argument.

These ranchers and farmers are sovereign citizens of the United States of America and are entitled to own their land, with no apologies.

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

- Thomas Jefferson