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President Biden designates Camp Hale a national monument

The designation of Camp Hale Continental Divide National Monument on Wednesday is the first of its kind by the Biden administration.

LEADVILLE, Colo. — President Joe Biden on Wednesday designated Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range a national monument, the first such designation of his administration.

Biden visited Colorado on Wednesday for the ceremony in Leadville.

“This is the story of America the beautiful,” Biden said as he designated the country's newest national monument.

"When I served as senator and vice president, Jill and I made sure to take our children and grandchildren to national parks all around the country," Biden said. "They’re treasures and wonders that define the identity of us as a nation. They’re a birthright that we pass down from generation to generation. And they unite us, and that’s what today’s all about. We’re doing it not just for today but for all the ages. It’s for the people of Colorado … It's for all the people across America and the world."

The new monument is called the Camp Hale Continental Divide National Monument.

Included in the national monument designation are the Camp Hale National Historic Site and the surrounding natural landscape, including the Tenmile Range and a 28-mile section of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT).

The Antiquities Act, which the Biden administration used to designate this monument, has been used more than 150 times throughout the history of the United States to establish and expand national monuments to conserve natural landscapes and enhance the cultural heritage of historically significant spaces. 

Camp Hale and the Continental Divide landscape were one of four landscapes identified for protection in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy Act, a piece of legislation that is the result of over a decade of collaboration with Colorado stakeholders.

Credit: KUSA

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) praised Biden for the move.

"Camp Hale is being protected thanks to the efforts of 10th Mountain Division veterans and local Coloradans who want to see these historic, breathtaking lands protected for generations to come," Hickenlooper said in a news release. 

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) said he joins "with all Coloradans in applauding President Biden’s decision to name Camp Hale as this country’s newest national monument."

"Camp Hale has always held a special place in our state’s history, from the important role it played globally during World War II to the way in which it helped grow our ski and outdoor recreation industries," Neguse said in a news release. "And from this point forward, not only will this landscape and treasured public lands be cemented into the American story, but so will the storied history and sacrifices of the 10th Mountain Division."

Credit: KUSA

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) said Biden is "answering Colorado’s call" to safeguard these lands.

"This designation and the administration’s efforts to protect the Thompson Divide enjoy broad, bipartisan support from Coloradans, and testify to the hard work of local leaders and groups, who have worked for years to preserve this vital part of our history and our landscapes. I am grateful to President Biden for answering Colorado’s call to honor our veterans, safeguard our wildlife and public lands, and strengthen our outdoor recreation economy."

Credit: KUSA

Republicans, including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), have come out publicly against the designation.

"Rather than working on real issues like reducing inflation and improving the economy, Joe Biden came to Colorado today to unilaterally lock up hundreds of thousands of acres through the stroke of his pen and prevent Coloradans from using our public lands for activities that we want and need. Shamefully, Biden ignored the concerns and opposition of impacted communities so he could appease Green New Deal extremists," Boebert said in a news release. "Equally troubling, they hid their true motivations and failed to be transparent about the harm and restrictions that will result from this massive land grab. With gas prices skyrocketing, OPEC decreasing its oil production, and Americans already struggling to pay their utility bills, this land grab to shut down American energy and natural resources production could not come at a worse time."

Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea weighed in last week to praise Camp Hale but called Biden's visit a photo-op ahead of the November election. O'Dea faces Sen. Bennet in a Senate race on Nov. 8.

"Camp Hale is an amazing place. Joe Biden and Michael Bennet’s record on inflation, border security, and crime are something much less than amazing. Biden and Bennet are moving the country badly in the wrong direction, and no amount of photo-ops in a place we all love will change this fact: accountability from the voters is coming soon."

During World War II, Camp Hale was a center for mountain and winter warfare training, including more than 1,000 buildings within the valley, and was the base of operations for the 10th Mountain Division’s training.

At the time of operation in the 1940s, Camp Hale was segregated, as were all contemporary U.S. military operations. Recognizing that this landscape holds a history of exclusion, stakeholders and partners are excited for a management plan that recognizes this historical context and plans for a more inclusive, collaborative landscape and experience in the future.

“I think a lot of people in Colorado and beyond maybe aren’t familiar with what an important role it played not only in Colorado’s history but in American history and world history," said Jason Hanson, the chief creative officer for History Colorado.

At the History Colorado Center, a part of one exhibit displays the "winter white" uniforms that soldiers at Camp Hale wore to camouflage themselves in the snow.

“We feel very lucky to be the stewards of this amazing piece of Colorado history," said Hanson. “I hope that Camp Hale – this designation – gives us that opportunity to really think about them and honor that sacrifice and that commitment that they made."

In addition to the historic landscape, the national monument will also protect surrounding natural resources along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT), including in the Tenmile Range. This section of the 3,100-mile trail that spans from Mexico to Canada acts as a primary habitat and connective corridor for wildlife, as well as a continuous footpath for recreationists and others hoping to explore the scenic ridgeline trail between Leadville and Breckenridge.

The preservation of public lands, and this designation in general, was important to groups like the Center for Western Priorities.

"We've really focused on protection of public lands in Camp Hale in particular," said the group's executive director, Jennifer Rokala. "It's a great day for Colorado."

Not only does Rokala believe it's a way to honor veterans, but she also believes the designation will leave lasting environmental impacts as well. 

"Public lands are an important part of the climate solution," she said. "And we've seen wildlife impacted, communities impacted. And the more public lands we have that are protected, there are opportunities for outdoor recreation."

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