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Militarized spaces and open range: Pinon Canyon and (counter)cartographies of rural resistance.

Abstract. This paper examines how rural communities in Colorado have confronted military expansion. Against the backdrop of a series of base realignments and closures during the past three decades that have streamlined US military holdings nationwide, the US Army base at Fort Carson, Colorado, has been growing. In 1983 Fort Carson expanded into a 95 500-hectare training area in southeastern Colorado known as the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS). In 2006 the Army announced plans to expand the PCMS by 169000 hectares. Under the Army's proposal, a significant portion of southeastern Colorado would be transformed into the largest Army training ground in the US. This prospect galvanized a diverse coalition of rural residents to oppose the Pinon Canyon expansion. Our research critically considers how the principal actors in this case--the US Army and a rural citizen opposition coalition--mobilized different narrative and political strategies based substantially upon contrasting cartographic representations to shape the debate and construct contested geographies of this space as military training ground versus open range. As of 2014, the expansion of PCMS is on hold, although there is no guarantee that base or military area expansion will not proceed in the future.

Keywords: military expansion, First World political ecology, Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, ranchers, US Army, subaltern


Kim, Colorado, scarcely looks like an epicenter of military resistance. With a census population of sixty-five and a lone country store/cafe/gas station, Kim is one of a number of small towns scattered across the high plains of southeastern Colorado. To most visitors it seems an inconspicuous community largely unchanged from previous decades. But the area does not receive the number of visitors and tourists that flock to Colorado's mountains every year for sport and leisure activities. Rather, Kim is in the sparsely populated and rarely visited southeast corner of Colorado, where it shares more in common with western Kansas, Oklahoma, and parts of the Texas Panhandle. It hardly seems the perfect place to mobilize resistance to military expansion. On our visits in 2008, 2009, and 2010, however, it became clear this short-grass prairie landscape was mobilizing in creative ways to oppose a planned military site expansion. (1)

In 2006 the US Army announced plans to increase the size of a nearby training area--the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS)--and Kim quickly emerged as a hub of activism against the proposed expansion. Local concern and citizen resistance to the military's ambitions spread rapidly across southeastern Colorado after maps of the Army's plans were leaked to the press and showed an even more expansive vision than official Army statements indicated. While the source of the leak was never made clear, the release of these maps spawned two related activities by rural residents of southeastern Colorado: a media campaign, and the adoption of countercartographic narratives to combat any expansion of the maneuver site.

In this paper we consider how the principal actors in this case--the US Army and a rural citizen opposition coalition based in Kim, the PCEOC (2)--have mobilized different narrative, political, and cartographic strategies to shape the debate and construct contested geographies of this space variously as military training ground or open rangeland. The conflict in this case is not between traditional western US foes of extractive industry and environmentalists, or the 'New West' threats to rural livelihoods such as real estate developers, leisure home owners, or recreational interests (eg, McCarthy, 2002; Robbins et al, 2009; Travis, 1997, 2007), but rather pits two customary and historical allies: the US military and rural cattle ranchers. This leads to the two key questions of our study: first, in a region noted for its relative political conservatism and support of the military, why has there been a sustained backlash against the US Army and its proposal to add what it claims is essential training capacity in a time of heightened military readiness? And second, what First World political-ecological and quasisubaltern strategies have been employed, and to what effect? While the military's plans for expansion appear to have been quashed with new legislation passed in late 2013, the shifting dynamics of the expansion threat illustrate the new entangled geographies of base or military expansion in a post-Cold War era, and civil society responses to these efforts.

Base closure and expansion

In order to assess some of the contemporary dynamics of resistance and expansion at Pinon Canyon, we need first to understand the historical context from which today's conflict emerged. The PCMS operates as an ancillary training ground for the US Army's Fort Carson post located in Colorado Springs, some 130 kilometers northwest of the PCMS. Although Fort Carson is a moderately large installation in its own right--its land base ranks in the top fifteen of any domestic Army post (DOD, 2009)--by the 1970s the DOD had identified training land shortages at Fort Carson that were due to new weapons and training demands (Bobbitt, 1974). The PCMS was created in 1983, after several years of study, public hearings, and land purchases. (3) The stated purpose of the new training area was to accommodate battalion-level exercises, tank maneuvers, and tactics (Department of the Army, 1980a). Because of Fort Carson's location on the south edge of a major metropolitan area, expansion nearby would have been difficult due to a lack of available land and political and economic concerns (for example, the acreage would not be taxable by the state or the city).

In the planning process for the PCMS and in a variety of public hearings and correspondence, the US Army pledged that there would be no live fire exercises conducted at the PCMS, and that there would be no need to expand the footprint of the training site in the future (eg, Department of the Army, 1980b). Perhaps the most sensitive aspect of the creation of the PCMS was that nearly half of the private lands acquired by the Army were gained using the federal government's power of eminent domain. The US Department of Defense (DOD) failed to find willing sellers for all the land it needed to acquire, so a number of landowners were compelled to turn their property over to the Army after receiving 'fair market value'--a process that often left landowners feeling bitter with resentment (see, for example, Roper, 2011).

In 1988, five years after the Army's establishment of the PCMS, the DOD faced the first round of what would become a series of systematic base closures across the United States. The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process was initiated by the US Congress in cooperation with the military to reduce costs, eliminate excess land holdings, and to move toward a more streamlined and efficient military at home (DOD, 2013). Following a total of five rounds of BRAC closures between 1988 and 2005, more than 130 major military installations in the US have now been closed or redesignated to alternative land uses (DOD, 2002; 2005). (4) In part owing to the subsequent shuffling of military personnel from closed installations to those remaining open. Fort Carson has seen dramatic growth: from 13 000 active duty soldiers in 2003 to approximately 26000 soldiers by 2012 (Department of the Army, 2012).

Domestic base closures from the BRAC process represent one component of broader US military trends affecting the Army's desire to add training lands; another important factor is the change pursued as part of the Global Defense Posture realignment announced by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004. In order to transform the US military into "a more agile and efficient force", Rumsfeld directed the return of 70000 service members from overseas bases--particularly from East Asia and Europe--as the military shifted away from large, permanent foreign bases in favor of more 'expeditionary' forces that could mobilize quickly from domestic installations or temporary bases internationally (Rumsfeld, 2004). Of particular relevance to the ongoing Pinon Canyon controversy is the fact that this move was motivated by several concerns: first, that US troops should be stationed "where they are wanted, welcomed, and needed"; next, that they should be located in order to accommodate a high degree of mobility in their training and deployment; and third, that new technologies and weapons systems were creating new training requirements and land use needs (Rumsfeld, 2004). Secretary Rumsfeld also clearly pointed out that this realignment was not a move toward demilitarization, but rather came in concert with an effort to increase the strength and effectiveness of US armed forces. The transitions occurring during this time were also informed by what was commonly referred to as a Revolution in Military Affairs (or RMA), which would utilize new technologies and integrated systems to make a more nimble, precise, and dominant US military. Although the specific appeal of this RMA has now largely been discredited by the damage wrought by asymmetrical warfare against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (eg, Stephenson, 2010), the continued reliance upon (so-called) precision strikes by unmanned aircraft (that is, drones) suggests that the RMA may be more persistent than critics believed.

The shift thus initiated recognized geographic and strategic changes as the Cold War faded from view and the new 'global war on terror' expanded in scope [on such post-Cold War 'entanglements', see Hecht (2011)]. Even as military geographies were being shifted with base closures and realignments, the Army failed to assess accurately how dramatically cultural geographies and political sensibilities shifted in the post-Cold-War US. Thus, ranchers near the PCMS were not like earlier generations of rural Americans who acceded to military dislocations in the name of the national interest, or the 1950s so-called downwinders affected by the nuclear bombing ranges of the Nevada Test Site, who endured militarization and its fallout out with some sense of Cold War patriotism (eg, Kuletz, 1998). Even during the original establishment of the PCMS in the early 1980s, the Army had found itself working with a southeastern Colorado ranching population that explicitly supported the US military, included a number of military veterans, and could be characterized as mostly compliant--at least until land condemnations shifted the dynamic.

Seemingly without the Army noticing, the planning contexts for military training had in fact altered dramatically between the 1983 establishment of the PCMS and the 2006 announcement that the Army sought a twofold expansion of the training area's extent. These changes also set the stage for conflict in southeastern Colorado: what the military presented as necessary responses to geopolitical change appeared to Colorado ranchers as a set of broken promises threatening to erase their way of life. Among these, opponents of the Pinon Canyon expansion pointed to a series of unfulfilled expectations for regional economic development, the Army's commencement of live fire training exercises in 2004, the plans to vastly expand the range that surfaced shortly thereafter, and the lingering threat of eminent domain claiming private lands. Although the region's ranchers continued to identify themselves as patriotic supporters of the US military and still included a number of military veterans, the perceived accumulation of false promises fostered a local sense that the Army should not be trusted and would break any pledge to satisfy its own interests (see PCEOC, no date; Not 1 More Acre!, no date).

Expansion plans revealed

In the protracted dispute between the US Army and southeastern Colorado ranching communities, the first move came from the military. As noted above, in January 2006 the DOD announced its interest in expanding the PCMS training site by up to 400000 hectares in response to a training shortfall that, in the military's view, could leave Fort Carson soldiers inadequately prepared for contemporary military conflicts (Roper, 2006a). Announced against the backdrop of ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these claims were presented as urgent matters of national security. The Army's dire vision of training shortfalls also looked forward, anticipating future conflicts in the ever more threatening global context of an open-ended 'war on terror'.

The proposal to expand the Pinon Canyon training site was also a product of longer-term military repositioning. The BRAC process, described above, contributed to a shift of military holdings with an emphasis on larger, more remote installations in the western US. These changes were compounded by the Stryker brigade concept and a push to 'Grow the Army', among other realignments that emerged between 1999-2004. Such efforts were catalyzed most dramatically by the 11 September 2001 attacks, but represented a significant longer-term repositioning of US military needs and capabilities.

The Army ultimately pointed to a shift to a more technologically adept, flexible, and lethal modular brigade structure (that is, the 'Stryker brigade concept' or more simply, 'Army Transformation') as the main factor spurring the need for more Army training lands (GAO, 2009). In its justification for expanding the Pinon Canyon training site, the Army noted that "changes to training doctrine resulting from Army Transformation are significantly increasing the Army's training land requirement at Fort Carson/PCMS" (Department of the Army, 2008). Specifically, the Army's transformation to modular brigades was projected to more than double the land base needed for training, from 26700 hectares per combat brigade to approximately 65 000 hectares (GAO, 2009, page 1). As the DOD had to retract some of its global footprint elsewhere, its needs or desires for domestic space grew more ambitious.

In 2006, however, the Army was far less clear or specific in outlining its desire to almost triple the size of the PCMS by adding 169000 hectares of surrounding ranchlands to the training site (Department of the Army, 2006; De Yoanna, 2006a; Garrett, 2006). Internally, the Army had been evaluating the prospects for a major expansion of the PCMS for at least three years prior to going public with its plans. In spring 2005 a land-use requirements study for the PCMS meticulously documented the need to add 462500 hectares to it in order to adequately meet its new training demands (Department of the Army, 2005). And a May 2004 Army Ranges and Training Land Program analysis explained that in September 2003 the DOD had developed an option for a "multi-phased acquisition of 6.9 million acres [2.8 million hectares] of land" in order to create a vastly expanded PCMS (2004). Neither of these Army reports was made public at the time, but by 2005 rumors were starting to swirl around southeastern Colorado that the Army was planning to dramatically expand the PCMS (eg, Pueblo Chieftain, 2006a). To the DOD's lasting dismay, in April 2006, when it held a meeting with the Southern Colorado Livestock Association, area ranchers circulated a leaked Army map that illustrated a long-term plan to commandeer nearly three million hectares of southeastern Colorado--extending clear to the Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma state lines--for a vast training site that would easily qualify the PCMS as the Army's largest (see figure 1). The Army quickly disavowed the map as a renegade planning document, but the leak mobilized vigorous opposition that countered the Army's vision of expansion through cartographic, rhetorical, legislative, and other means (Roper, 2006b).

Can ranchers be the subaltern?

Military expansion is, of course, not the only factor that endangers extensive land uses such as cattle ranching. Across the western US, suburbanization, urban purchase of rural water rights, and the decline of family agricultural initiatives are all amply noted in the literature as socially and ecologically disruptive processes (eg, Gosnell and Travis, 2005; Travis, 2007; Sayre, 2002; Sheridan, 2007). Reading further back in time, this area of southeastern Colorado was home to a variety of nomadic Amerindian groups, including the Cheyenne, the Ute, and the Comanche (Blackhawk, 2008). One of the most infamous massacres of American Indians, the Sand Creek massacre of 1864, occurred not far from the epicenter of this more recent controversy. The past violence here resonates with the historical literature, such as Wolf's (1982) treatment of 'people without history'. But why does this historical context matter?

The violence and settler colonialism of the past (space) is echoed and recruited in current rhetorical strategies employed by local residents, as the violence now threatened in economic and environmental terms has come back to haunt the homesteaders and settlers of the region through military site expansions (Cowen and Gilbert, 2008; Veracini, 2010). Much as the arrival of Anglo settlers in the 19th century was the mechanism for US Army violence towards early Native inhabitants in the 1860s to 1880s, the contemporary Army pressure for militarized 'enclosure' and expansion represents a second wave of unsettling, martial colonialism that directly threatens livelihoods of past colonial settlers, albeit one less directly physical. Calls for national security and 'supporting our troops' are the current buzzwords that seek to depoliticize the Army's moves in southeastern Colorado. Then, as now, the Army viewed this portion of Colorado as underutilized and, thus, up for grabs. Regardless of whether the populations standing in the way of'progress' were American Indians (then) or American cowboys (now), the Army would merely need to overcome problematic perceptions of prior occupation to secure the space for Army uses [on related processes of erasure and negation, see, for example, Spurr (1993)]. Not surprisingly, to borrow from Elkins and Pedersen (2005, page 15), ranchers seemingly "well entrenched within the political and economic institutions of the colonial state, were unprepared to relinquish their privileges"--or, more to the point in this case, their land.

The violent dislocations of the past are rarely mobilized by the ranchers--although one did claim in conversation "we're the Indians now"--as they face threats of property loss and diminished livelihoods due to military expansion. In ways that fit somewhat uncomfortably with the usual postcolonial conceptions of subaltern people, the region's ranchers and rural residents attempted to create a social movement based on livelihood identity, building solidarity with anyone willing to listen. This massing of activity was not driven by the elite, intellectual classes of southeastern Colorado. The ability of the PCEOC to mobilize on multiple media fronts, in quasi-subaltern ways, has often worked to their advantage. Although the ranchers often worked from the bottom up in their efforts to mobilize, clearly they were not voiceless people; they had access to local and regional media, are typically well educated and white, and fostered connections to elected officials at the county, state, and federal level, a number of whom actively identify as members of the ranching community. Following Spivak's (1988) claim that the subaltern could never truly speak, these ranchers can never be subaltern, but they have clearly used subaltern strategies of rhetoric and social movements to achieve their goals. Refusing to be part of a new enclosure, ranchers and rural inhabitants of southeastern Colorado pushed back in ways that would have been remarkable when the PCMS was created in the early 1980s. By the 2000s, the 'eminence' of the Army's domain was not as clear-cut and unquestioned as it had been in the 1980s. This enclosure would not go uncontested.

The ironic domestication of a violent 19th century is neatly encapsulated in the region's Comanche National Grasslands, which now appears as a conservation landscape in southeastern Colorado bordered by private ranches and military training ground. The Comanches, of course, were cleared from the area long before the grassland was named for them. As Harris and Hazen (2006) point out, and as the controversy surrounding expansion of the PCMS illustrates, the mere presence of this type of conservation area on a map can normalize land uses and shape public perception and policy [on the power of maps more generally, see Harley (1989); Wood (1992)]. The juxtaposition of militarized space with spaces of conservation has been highlighted as problematic by the citizen opponents to military expansion [for related considerations of the military-environment relationship, see Woodward (2001); Havlick (2007); Pearson et al (2010)]. The military and the ranchers have also each tried to stake claims as the authentic environmental stewards of the area's grasslands, wildlife, and cultural resources (eg, Anonymous, no date a; no date b; Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, no date; Department of the Army, no date). While co-opting the identity of 'Indians' may not have been a major component of rancher strategy and rhetorical practice, the PCEOC was able to adapt and deploy several subaltern strategies of resistance to quash military expansion in the area, in a remarkable case of First World rural political-ecological action.

Asymmetry and information

The controversy over expansion of the PCMS can be seen as asymmetrical in a number of ways. On one side we find the institutional weight of the world's most potent military superpower; on the other, a scattered band of rural ranchers eking out an existence on marginal rangelands in the arid Southwest. (5) Working against this clear imbalance in financial resources, organizational capacity, or political heft, the ranchers opposing military expansion in Colorado actually provide the bulk of information made available to the public. Making abundant use of traditional and new forms of media, including public talks, reaching out to students at local colleges, websites, social networks, and creative outreach events such as art and land sales ("Become a landowner in southeastern Colorado: buy one square inch for $10! "), the PCEOC has been effective in creating and guiding the narrative of the controversy to support its positions. In many respects, the lack of transparency by the DOD in sharing information and revealing its ultimate interests in the PCMS expansion has increased the PCEOC's effectiveness and credibility.

In the research process for this piece, for example, it was the PCEOC and not the DOD that provided a thorough archive of documents, maps, media coverage, and correspondence. The authors attempted on multiple occasions, to no avail, to arrange for an interview, or to discuss the controversy with Army officials over the phone or in person. While the PCEOC's archive may well provide a representative account of the events taking place here, the motives and plans of the DOD are likely und0errepresented and presented more critically than if information flowed freely from the Army directly. But the fact that the DOD is not fully transparent or forthcoming with information also lends credence to accounts by the PCEOC that the military's representation of events was not to be trusted. During a 2007 visit by a PCEOC activist to one of the authors' campuses, in fact, an Army official from Fort Carson was present and listening in the audience at the public presentation. He later removed himself to the hallway outside of the room, where a local news crew awaited. As the official put it to the news reporter at that time,

"these people [ranchers] have to remember we are talking about the United States of America Army forces, not some foreign occupying army, and they are completely undermining good notions of national security and troop preparedness during a time of war" (author's field notes).

Shortly after stating this, the Army official noticed our note-taking, and suggested to the reporter that they should relocate to a more private location. Such was the secretive disposition of the Army, which, in the end did not serve its interests well.

Regardless of any potential for bias in this critical and asymmetrical analysis, the PCEOC provided a rich archive of material on the historical and contemporary efforts by the DOD to expand its training lands in southeastern Colorado--and the citizen-based efforts to resist this expansion. Interestingly, as we illustrate below, the ranchers often relied upon the

appropriation, dissemination, or modification of official maps and documents to represent the Army's expansion plans. Though the ranchers were abundantly literate and clearly quite capable of publishing on their own, as the PCEOC's website amply demonstrates, this reliance upon others' documents perhaps hints at Chakrabarty's depiction of subaltern social groups, who "do not leave behind their own documents" (2002, page 15). We turn more directly now to this struggle over land, and how the respective sides employed strategies of expansion and resistance differently, and to different effect.

Cartographies of expansion and resistance

In an effort to get its Pinon Canyon expansion plans back on track, the Army released a new 'authorized' map that showed a bull's-eye with the PCMS at the center, surrounded by a shaded 'area of interest' (eg, Roper, 2006c; Prendergast, 2011) (see figure 2). The new map was intentionally vague, with few markers of human land use or occupation visible in or around the target area. The map very much reflected the Army's view--detailed in its planning documents that would surface later--that the 17263 rural residents living in the prospective expansion zone were of minimal consequence. In its 2004 report, for example, the Army listed population displacement as eighth on a list of nine "potential impacts on the human and natural environment" that merited attention (US Army, 2004, page 14). Other impacts noted of seemingly higher priority were the possible need to clean up contaminated sites prior to training use, the need to study sensitive areas and cultural baselines (such as existing uses and cultural perceptions of the sites), and the possibility for "increased military training impacts in areas that have seen none to date (but will probably be less than those caused by livestock grazing currently)" (page 14, emphasis added).

From the outset, the Army emphasized that its expansion plans would rely upon 'willing sellers' inside its area of interest. As opposition from local ranchers quickly flared, the Army worked to assure the public that it had carefully evaluated its essential training needs to justify expansion, ft offered a bone to environmentalists as well, noting that the Army was working with an unnamed organization to set aside a conservation area in the Purgatoire River canyons "to offset the environmental impacts of this project" (De Yoanna, 2006b).

The Army thus deployed a combined response of denial, redirection, and division by distancing itself from the 'unauthorized' leaked map that showed a huge PCMS expansion, offering an authoritative alternative map, and trying to fracture potential opposition to PCMS expansion by recruiting conservationists to align with the Army rather than the ranchers. This likely seemed a reasonable approach considering long-standing antipathy between ranchers and environmentalists in the western US. The Army also viewed the ranchers themselves as potential allies in the expansion effort. As a 2005 Fort Carson study (released later) explained: "This acquisition ... can also benefit from an extremely pro-military climate in Southeast Colorado that is more amenable to accepting expansion as part of the Global War on terrorism than some other areas of the country" (US Army, 2005, page 19). This second attempt to expand and enclose, however, was a complete political misjudgment by the US Army, as resistance mounted.

The PCEOC formed within months after the Army's first public announcements of its expansion plans (Roper, 2006d), and responded with its own set of maps or, more precisely, its own versions and interpretations of Army and county maps, employing a countercartography that showed the same region in strikingly different terms. Not willing to cede ground to the Army with respect to environmental stewardship, the PCEOC also worked to recruit its own allies in the regional conservation community (Roper, 2006c). The PCEOC did its best to not be isolated or outgreened and worked effectively with regional cultural-historical allies.

The PCEOC also kept the focus on the leaked Army map showing a one million to 2.8 million hectare expansion zone and 'enhanced' the map to more dramatically portray the full scope of the military's plans; a regional daily newspaper, the La Junta Tribune Democrat, further enhanced the leaked map with bright colors and a clear legend highlighting the twenty-year expansion schedule charted by the Army. These rather alarming maps were promptly posted to the PCEOC's website and shared broadly across the region, even as the Army sought to insert its modest 'area of interest' map as the only 'authorized' cartography of expansion.

In their outreach efforts, both in person and online, expansion opponents managed to present themselves as genuine ranchers (which they are), complete with cowboy hats, belt buckles, and stories of life on the range, while also deploying a sophisticated campaign of countercartography and asymmetrical information management. This approach effectively straddled a position between quasi-subaltems, poised to draw upon political sympathies of the broader region with its western ethos of rugged frontier individualism, on the one hand and savvy, technologically adept moderns on the other. PCEOC leaders not only seemed to understand the original power of Army maps, but also outmaneuvered the Army in cartographically rerepresenting their case against the expansion of this remote training base. Over time, the PCEOC produced its own versions of the original maps to suit its shifting tactics and purposes (such as their 'no willing sellers' map, see below). Assuming that maps enable their readers to 'see' certain human relationships with the land (Harris and Hazen 2006; but see also Culcasi, 2012; Kitchin and Dodge, 2007; Peluso, 1995; Pickles, 2004; Wood, 1992; 2010), these southeastern Colorado ranchers selectively used a variety of maps to emphasize their particular--and particularly valuable and vulnerable--relationships to the land, while also undermining the Army's credibility in its expansion efforts.

In many cases, the countercartographies of the resistance were generated by the Army itself. From the outset, the PCEOC chose to embrace the Army's map of full-scale PCMS expansion. It enhanced this leaked map, retaining its authoritative Fort Carson logo, distributed it whenever possible, and sought to reinforce its significance as a declaration of the DOD's true intentions. The opposition group showed a clear appreciation for the power of the Army's map and turned it against the Army's interests.

The opposition group also nimbly repudiated the Army's claims of relying solely upon 'willing sellers'. To counter the Army's assertion that it would expand only by acquiring property from 'willing sellers', the PCEOC modified a Las Animas County (6) Assessor's Office map and color-coded every parcel within the Army's 'area of interest': black indicated "Private landowner willing to sell to the Army"; red signaled landowners "NOT WILLING to SELL to the ARMY" (emphasis in original); and yellow and green marked state and federal lands (not including the PCMS itself, which was left white). The map showed a broad red apron of parcels surrounding the PCMS, as well as several clumps of state and federal land, but not a single scrap of land marked 'willing to sell' in black (see figure 3). The none-too-subtle message: if the Army were to limit itself to willing sellers, PCMS expansion would be impossible. The map may also have hinted vaguely at threat. To any ranchers tempted to think kindly toward Army overtures to buy land, the map served notice that landowners would be branded by the map.

While this strategy is somewhat reminiscent of indigenous countermapping strategies in developing countries, where the goal is to contextualize state or development plans in or around native lands, there are some risky aspects to this approach of spatially explicit countermapping. For one, the PCEOC made public a map of nonwilling sellers, which the Army could potentially use to identify or isolate particular tracts of rangelands should they choose a direct route for identifying and then approaching reluctant or willing sellers (see figure 3). Another potential risk in this strategy was that the language of 'selling' could have created its own momentum. The Army itself explicitly used the language of 'willing seller' and 'willing buyer' in its proposed expansion plans. Yet the PCEOC's countercartography of private property owners not willing to sell carried a kind of peer pressure, a form of cartographic bullying that they used to lobby or isolate owners who had not signed the 'not willing to sell' pledge in southeastern Colorado.

(Re)constructions of contested space at the PCMS

Finally, one of the palpable tools available to the PCEOC was alliance building with other parties opposed to further expansion of military space in the region. For example, the use of heritage mapping was a spatial tactic used in this effort. The PCEOC released a map of the historic Santa Fe Trail as a means of highlighting how a marker of American progress and westward expansion would be jeopardized by military expansion. Along with more traditional heritage features, the map identified previous military outposts as well as previous military misdeeds, such as the Sand Creek Massacre and the bleak Second World War internment camp for Japanese Americans (known as Camp Amache or the Granada War Relocation Center). This cartographic-heritage strategy sought to outflank additional attempts by the US Army to expand operations at the PCMS. The irony of highlighting past enclosure and ethnic violence against 'others' on the range should not be overlooked--but the PCEOC was careful not to elevate these examples and remained aware of using them.

The range of networks, alliances, rhetoric, and countermapping are indicative of a new kind of western politics that draws selectively on the old West. The opposition to military expansion mobilized artists, cultural heritage aficionados, and other rural visitors to defend the distinctiveness of the caprock canyons of southeastern Colorado. Contradiction and complexity, as evidenced by historically violent markers and their reuse in contemporary (white) rancher rhetoric, remain embedded in these landscapes. Due to the relative remoteness from metropolitan areas and lack of easily appreciated aesthetic features, rangelands in this area have, to date, little to fear from suburbanization or amenity ownership, even if absentee owners are of concern to locals.

Likewise, the ranchers' claim to protecting the land's cultural heritage may serve to strengthen their more contested claim of environmental stewardship superior to the Army's. The Army's resistance on this latter front--asserting that military control should be seen as a move for conservation--attempts to put black hats on local ranchers, an exercise not uncommon in other regions (Perramond, 2010). While The Nature Conservancy was implicated by the Army for having participated in preliminary discussions with the military about an expanded 'nature corridor' along the Purgatoire River, the conservation group quickly disavowed these rumors (Anonymous, 2006; Pueblo Chieftain, 2006b). Thus, the Army's efforts to cast doubt on ranchers' environmental credibility backfired and instead reinforced the PCEOC's claims that it was the military who consistently failed to earn public trust.

If there are limitations to understanding these contested spaces and the spatial semiotics of rhetoric, it is partially due to the relative silence of the US Army. In many respects, there has been an odd 'cone of silence' from the DOD, adding to the difficulty in making meaningful comparisons between rancher rhetoric and discourses of militarization in this case. The DOD has in fact published a number of reports analyzing the environmental impacts and strategic merits of expanding the PCMS (eg, DOD, 2004; Department of the Army, 2005; 2008), but many of these emerged only after citizen groups submitted Freedom of Information requests or after elected officials demanded a response. The DOD initiated relatively few public hearings regarding the PCMS. Statements made early in the process in 2006, such as those pledging to take land only from willing sellers, were later recanted or changed, contributing even further to the ranchers' view that the Army was not being forthright with its planning process. The contrasting rhetorical silence from DOD did not serve the Army's expansion plans well, though presenting its expansive desire for land more openly surely lacked appeal as well.

The increases in personnel in Colorado Springs at Fort Carson were often invoked as a cause for PCMS expansion, but, when pressed, the Army failed to demonstrate to the satisfaction of elected officials (as a proxy of public opinion) that on-post changes necessitated expansion at Pinon Canyon. The military clearly sought to use this as leverage for any future pushout from the PCMS, but its inability to carry the argument beyond Colorado Springs and sway rural landowners proved to be a prohibitive failure of communication. In the absence of any forthright dialogue, all manner of rumor swirled about the 'real reasons' for PCMS expansion. Locals in southeastern Colorado offered differing motives: expansion of drone activity, large unpopulated stretches of territory for low-level strafing and training flights, and more.

As base closures and efforts at military restructuring continue to intensify the use of military spaces that remain active, it appears uncertain whether or not the Army can successfully pursue an extensive approach to land use without providing specifics of how exactly they will be using these spaces, and why. In California a proposed expansion of the US Marine base at Twentynine Palms was the subject of similar local opposition, despite a population that described itself as promilitary. The specific contexts of the California case, however, were rather different from those in Colorado, with the principal adverse effect of expansion being a loss of motorized recreational opportunity with ancillary impacts on the local economy. (7)

The coalition that formed in southeastern Colorado to resist the expansion of the PCMS originally had a focused objective: no military expansion (or as it insisted throughout: "Not 1 More Acre! "). More than ten years after the Army first drafted its ambitious plan to create the nation's largest training base here, southeastern Coloradans' resistance may in fact have achieved something beyond this one battle for land. They have demanded transparency and accountability from an institution that has long relied on blind deference to allow it to act as it chooses in the name of national security.

Postscript: resistance is not futile

On 25 November 2013 US Senator Mark Udall posted the following announcement on his website:

"Mark Udall, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Assistant Secretary of the Army Katherine Hammack announced today that the U.S. Army will not seek to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site and will withdraw its request for a land acquisition waiver that had been a longstanding concern for area residents."

Weeks later, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which formalized the Army's retreat. PCMS expansion, at least for the time being, was no longer an active prospect.

On the final day of 2013, the PCEOC issued its own press release celebrating what could only be seen as a victory. While the group praised the elected officials, organizations, and thousands of individuals who contributed to its successful resistance, its leaders also sounded a note of caution: "The era of concerted resistance to expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is morphing into an era of vigilance, watchfulness, and accountability." (8) The announcement also noted that the fight against military expansion had elevated the region's visibility to the outside world and that the PCEOC would work to "protect the agricultural and heritage-tourism assets in the region surrounding Pinon Canyon". Rural land-owner countercartographies of resistance thus shifted to play a new role: maps of cultural and environmental amenities emphasized the local economy and served to solidify the region's place as open range rather than militarized space in an ongoing battle of public communications and spatial representations.

The Pinon Canyon case offers numerous insights into how post-Cold War attitudes have changed. Secretive practices of military expansion, once common and unquestioned, no longer stand on their own. The rural groups mobilized to resist military expansion of the maneuver site adopted or created a suite of media strategies and tactics to create a one-sided narrative of US Army plans and positions. PCEOC's use of social media, activist mobilization, and outreach all served to counter the Army's plans for the PCMS. Rural residents also successfully built a kind of rural-urban activist network with multiple components in southeastern Colorado to oppose the military's plans. Although PCEOC's ranchers and rural residents scarcely meet most critical notions of a subaltern population (eg, Chakrabarty, 2002; Guha and Spivak, 1988), the campaign of these First World quasi-subalterns against military expansion proved remarkably successful in adopting, adapting, and mobilizing aspects of this type of resistance.

Even in victory, southeastern Colorado's rural residents remain, in many respects, outsiders. As such, they recognize that a successful push against military expansion is only marginally secure, and may be only briefly savored. Newspaper headlines in March 2014 brought this point swiftly home: "Army eyes Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site for drone training" (Roeder, 2014). Only months after officially shelving its plans for ground-based expansion at the PCMS, the Army is highlighting anew how the next era of "integrated and realistic air and land training" necessitates new training lands, airspace, and ranges. The Army also pledges to use land it already owns and to be a better neighbor. Yet this recycled push for greater militarized land-use intensity at the PCMS will surely provoke new reactions and visible weapons of the not-so-weak in southeastern Colorado. (9)

doi: 10.1068/d14113p


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(1) We thank the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition (PCEOC) and the ranchers willing to speak with us about this issue. Sources and insights for this piece come from a variety of sources and moments. The authors made a joint trip together in 2008, and subsequent visits followed in 2008 and 2010 during a Colorado College student trip for a Political Ecology of the Southwest course. We also attended a number of hearings and outreach events focused on the military expansion from 2007 to 2013.

(2) Another expansion opposition group, Not 1 More Acre!, is based in Trinidad, Colorado. The primary focus of this paper is on the PCEOC, though these two groups' efforts in many respects work in parallel with each other and the membership of each overlaps to some degree. Not 1 More Acre! is also allied explicitly with the Purgatoire, Apishapa, and Comanche Grassland Trust as a sister organization (the former has lobbying status, the latter is more limited in its purview to education and outreach). Note also that we have preserved local variations in spelling (Pinon vs. Pinon) as they are deployed by respective groups or agencies.

(3) Land acquisitions were completed in 1983 and the site opened for training in 1985.

(4) A 'major installation' contains at least 4 hectares or SI.5 billion in assets.

(5) Appearances can be deceiving in some respects: as we have noted, the ranchers at the core of the resistance are mostly college-educated and politically savvy.

(6) The county most immediately implicated in any PCMS expansion.

(7) The conflict was resolved in late 2013 with a scaled-back expansion that left more than half of the recreational lands open to public use (see Cuevas, 2013; Zimmerman, 2013).

(8) It is worth noting that not all opponents of the expansion view the recent legislation as a dramatic change of DOD positioning.

(9) The final phrase borrows from Scott (1985).

David G Havlick

Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80918, USA; e-mail:

Eric Perramond

Southwest Studies and Environmental Science, Colorado College, 14 East Cache La Poudre Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903, USA; e-mail:

Received 22 May 2014; in revised form 4 August 2014
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Author:Havlick, David G.; Perramond, Eric
Publication:Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Article Type:Report
Date:Feb 1, 2015
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