In Letter to U.S. Attorney General and Army Secretary, Bennet Urges End to Litigation and Immediate Withdrawal of Court Appeal
Today, in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Army Secretary John McHugh, Michael Bennet urged the Army to acknowledge the flawed nature of its 2007 environmental impact analysis on the proposed expansion at Pinon Canyon and asked that the Army immediately withdraw its plans to appeal the U.S. District Court's recent decision on the matter.
"The Army's decision to move forward with more litigation sends a hostile message to the farmers and ranchers in southern Colorado: the Army is more concerned about winning than about repairing this relationship over the long-term," wrote Bennet.
"In short, the Army has nothing to lose by acknowledging that its 2007 study, which many in southern Colorado saw as an underhanded attempt at justifying expansion, was seriously flawed. The only things the Army stands to accomplish by continuing to fight are the further engenderment of anger, frustration, and misunderstanding," continued Bennet.
The full text of Bennet's letter to Attorney General Holder and Army Secretary McHugh is included below:
Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretary McHugh:
I write to express my strong misgivings about the Army's handling of the contentious issue in my state involving the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS), its impact on the southern Colorado region, and whether or not the Army needs to expand there. I don't intend to be unnecessarily critical. But it's my objective that the Army find a wiser way forward, repair some strained relations with many of my constituents, and that people's closely held feelings-and their property-are respected by their government.
That's why I'm perplexed by the Army's decision to file a notice of appeal in the case of Not One More Acre v. United States Department of the Army. In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch found that a 2007 environmental impact analysis on a stepped-up training regimen at PCMS was shortsighted and that the Army had greatly and capriciously underestimated its potential impacts. There is fairly broad consensus that the Army did not handle this situation particularly well. I had hoped that it would be different going forward, but noticing an appeal keeps us on the same destructive course.
Southern Colorado and the Army have a historical partnership that is good for Colorado and for the country. That's why it's so important that as public officials, we take the steps necessary to put the Pinon Canyon issue on the right track. If we take the proper steps to help repair this productive relationship, I can tell you that the people of Colorado will respond positively.
Yet the Army's decision to move forward with more litigation sends a hostile message to the farmers and ranchers in southern Colorado: the Army is more concerned about winning than about repairing this relationship over the long-term. This course of action makes the Army appear insincere. We were told by former Secretary Geren that the Army seeks to "punch the reset button and start over." It's time to put an end to the adversarial relationship between these Colorado residents-my constituents-and the Army. The first thing you should do on that front is drop this lawsuit.
In short, the Army has nothing to lose by acknowledging that its 2007 study, which many in southern Colorado saw as an underhanded attempt at justifying expansion, was seriously flawed. The only things the Army stands to accomplish by continuing to fight are the further engenderment of anger, frustration, and misunderstanding.
I urge you to put an end to this litigious process and withdraw the Army's appeal immediately. Pursuit of a win in the courtroom-which appears to me to be a dicey prospect anyway-is not worth the strained community relations that will surely follow it. I make these observations out of a sincere wish to help the Army repair its relationship with southern Colorado. I view the decision to notice an appeal as a real setback in that effort, and I hope you will both reconsider.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and for your service to our nation.
Michael F. Bennet