My First Feature for Reason Magazine: Woohoo!

It’s online now. It’s about the U.S. Army’s attempt to seize hundreds of thousands of acres of private ranch land.

In the asymmetrical war these ranchers are fighting, they use any weapon they can, because theirs is an opponent that tends to win: the U.S. Army.

The Army already occupies 245,000 acres of Colorado’s desolate Piñon Canyon, which it uses for large-scale, force-on-force mechanized brigade combat exercises involving tanks and armored units. But since 2006 Uncle Sam has had his eye on at least 418,000 acres more, to handle increased demand for maneuvers and the expansion of Fort Carson.

Most of that land is private property in the Comanche National Grasslands lying between the rustic ranching towns of La Junta, Trinidad, and Walsenburg. The proposed annexation, which would create a contiguous Army-owned area 85 percent the size of Rhode Island, has attracted loud opposition from local landowners, environmentalists, scientists, and politicians. Their combined efforts were enough to gain a congressionally ordered reprieve in 2007, but the Army appears determined to wear them down. In fact, the training ground expansion may be just the first phase of an enormous land grab potentially involving millions of acres

Go here to read it with them eyes of yours.

Upcoming Feature in Reason Magazine

Regular readers know I’m a big fan of Reason magazine. So I’m pleased to say I will have my first byline in the national magazine’s upcoming March issue.

My feature story focuses on the U.S. Army’s ongoing effort to seize hundreds of thousands of acres of prime, private ranch land to expand the existing Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site used by armored units from Fort Carson.

I’m telling the tale of the coalition of ranchers, environmentalists, paleontologists, and Indian tribes who are fighting like David against Goliath. Some of these ranches being threatened have been owned by families going back to the mid-1800s, before Colorado was a state. And the Army isn’t exactly land poor, what with more than 15 million acres of land nationwide.

I’ve written about this issue a number of times for The Land Report, where you can find background and some excellent photography by my partner, Gustav Schmiege, one of the best shooters I know, even if he does sing too much on road trips and gets too scared when I drive 120 mph at 3 a.m. (Hi Gus. Just kidding.)

Pinon Canyon Update: Eminent Domain Ban Goes to the Hill

My latest dispatch on the great Pinon Canyon land grab is up at thelandreport.com.

Maybe, just maybe, ranchers will be able to breathe easy for a year as the ban on eminent domain is extended another year. But that doesn’t mean backers of the PCMS expansion don’t have an ace up their sleeve.

More here.

Latest News from Pinon Canyon

My update on Pinon Canyon is up today at TheLandReport.com. Check it out.

Thursday Roundup: Dems and Republicans Break the Law, “Tell Me You Are Sorry”

  • Guess who failed to follow the law for getting their presidential candidates on the Texas ballots? John McCain and Barack Obama, that’s who. Both the Dems and the Republicans failed to certify their presidential candidates and report them to the Texas Secretary of State. Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate, is suing against all odds to make sure Texas follows the law, but he may as well try sweeping Jell-O. Why? Because the state won’t obey its own laws. At least for the two major parties. Texas kept the Green Party off the ballot in 2004 for this very reason. But the laws don’t apply to the major party rulers.
  • Dallas-based Reason editor Jacob Sullum picks up where Robert Guest leaves off, pointing out that Barack Obama and Sarah Palin have no answer as to why nearly 1 million Americans are arrested and jailed for simple pot possession each year, while they should be forgiven for their “youth indiscretions.”
  • Outlaw country icon and Squidbillies theme singer Billy Joe Shaver is living the country star life, including the indictment for shooting a guy in the face at a bar. Best part: Before he shot the guy, he asked, “Where do you want it?” and after he stood over the guy and demanded, “Tell me you are sorry.”

The Army’s Piñon Canyon Land Grab Series: Meet the Resistance

The second part in my ongoing series on the U.S. Army’s bid to seize 420,000 acres of prime southeast Colorado ranch land is up at The Land Report. Meet one of the men and women banding together to fight the Pentagon.