Camp Hale supporters ramping up efforts to see new national monument in Eagle, Summit Counties |

Camp Hale supporters ramping up efforts to see new national monument in Eagle, Summit Counties

John LaConte
Vail Daily
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speak to the media Tuesday at Camp Hale near Red Cliff. Many want the former World War II-era training site to be designated as a national landmark.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Supporters of a new national monument at Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range have ramped up efforts in recent weeks, leading some to speculate the designation could come soon.

The Washington Post on Monday cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter in reporting that President Joe Biden is “likely” to designate the new monument “in the coming weeks.”

The Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument would be what’s known as a “non-contiguous” national monument, meaning that it contains two separate areas which are not connected within the monument boundaries — Camp Hale in Eagle County and the Tenmile Range in Summit County. National monuments can be created by presidential decree through the Antiquities Act of 1906.

letter to Biden sent Monday united the voices of a coalition of veterans, military families and 34 environmental organizations in urging the president to use the Antiquities Act to designate the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument.

Monday’s letter was organized by Vet Voice Foundation and referenced an earlier letter to the president, sent in August, from prominent Democrats in Colorado.

“As you know, this request was recently made by Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, Governor Polis and Representative Neguse and is widely supported on the ground and by the signatories here,” Monday’s letter reads. “We recognize and thank you for making the conservation of America’s public lands and waters a priority by committing your administration to the important goal of conserving 30% of this nation’s lands and waters by 2030. Your ‘America the Beautiful’ Initiative has made strides over the past 18 months, and designation of Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument will contribute to this goal.”

The letter also references the CORE Act, legislation that aimed to create new wilderness areas in Eagle and Summit counties.

“The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, which includes protections of these areas and more, has passed the House of Representatives five times but has unfortunately stalled in the Senate over several Congresses, despite the support of both of Colorado’s Senators,” Monday’s letter reads.

Troops from the 10th Mountain Division train at Camp Hale during World War II. When they returned home from fighting, those soldiers are credited with creating the modern U.S. ski industry, including the development of Vail.
Vail Daily archive

On the right side of the political spectrum, former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, did not support the CORE Act, and Lauren Boebert has been vocal in her non-support of the measure, as well, saying it didn’t incorporate measures suggested by Gardner. Gardner was replaced by Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who supports the CORE Act and the new national monument designation.

Boebert, in a statement, said she didn’t support the new national monument designation for the area, as well.

“I don’t support the efforts of extremist environmentalists who are seeking to hijack this historic place to create a new land designation,” Boebert said.

But national monument designations don’t always get a pass on the other side of the political spectrum, either. National monuments in the West have been criticized for permitting cattle grazing to occur within their boundaries. In Colorado, grazing is allowed in the Browns Canyon National Monument, about 50 miles south of Camp Hale, a monument created by President Barack Obama in 2015.

In Southwest Colorado, the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument — created by President Bill Clinton in 2000 — allows cattle grazing, as well, with environmental groups saying it’s contributing to the deteriorating health of the drought-stricken lands in the area.

Environmentalists have also pointed out that National Monument designations, particularly in areas of cultural distinction, create additional tourist pressure on the area, becoming “sacrificed and Disneyfied” or “dioramas of their original selves,” as pointed out by David Gessner, who writes about public lands issues in the West.

Vail resident Chris Mech said he sees a new tourist draw to Camp Hale as a negative for elk herds in the area.

“I see the additional pressure on this area as a detriment to their survival,” he wrote in a letter to the Vail Daily.

Mech also pointed out that the areas are already public lands, part of the White River National Forest, a point being referenced by detractors who say it’s disingenuous to add this to Biden’s “important goal of conserving 30% of this nation’s lands and waters by 2030,” as referenced in Monday’s letter from supporters.

“The entire area is already public land, and is therefore already ‘protected for future generations,’” Mech said.

In 1992, Camp Hale was designated as a National Historic Site, an event celebrated by hundreds of 10th Mountain Division veterans who once trained there.

But as the point is argued, those who stand to be most honored — those 10th Mountain Division troops who trained at Camp Hale and in the Tenmile range during World War II — may not live to see any further land designations there, something pointed out in Monday’s letter.

“While we continue to work with lead sponsors Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse to pass the entirety of the protections included in the bill, it is vital that you act to immediately protect the areas within the proposed Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument to honor the few surviving 10th Mountain Division veterans and to protect the area for future generations of Coloradans and Americans alike,” the letter reads.

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