It would be great if Fort Lyons could become a place of healing for traumatized returning vets, as Governor Hickenlooper's Chief of Staff, Roxane White has suggested. But that historic facility should not be used as a bargaining chip to buy support for the expansion of Pinon Canyon as the Governor seems to be implying.
Fort Lyons is important to our region, both economically and because of its historical significance. It started out as an operations center to facilitate the removal of the native population from their land. It would be a bitter irony if it were used as a means to remove the current population.
Another historic irony; Kit Carson breathed his last at Fort Lyons. Carson was a "good soldier" who obeyed orders without question. That included an order to forcibly remove 8,000 Navajo people from there homes in Canyon De Chelly. According to Army documents, the expansion of Pinon Canyon would involve the forced removal of 17,000 people from their homes by the good soldiers of the fort that's named in honor of Kit Carson.
The removal of the Navajos from their traditional homeland was accomplished by enlisting the support of another Native American group, the Utes who helped Carson get the job done. It's the old, "divide and conquer" strategy. But I don't believe that the people of Southeastern Colorado can be set against one another. I believe that we will hang together in our desire to see Fort Lyons utilized for some good purpose, and in our resolve to stand against the expansion of Pinon Canyon.
I would urge that leaders in Bent County make it crystal clear to the Governor and to the Army that any use of Fort Lyons by the military would not alter their opposition to Pinon Canyon Expansion. It's possible that Governor Hickenlooper did not mean to suggest that the Army's use of Fort Lyons would buy his support for an expansion of Pinon Canyon. If that's the case, I urge him to clarify the matter and state clearly that the two issues are unrelated.