Tenmile Range designated as part of national monument, White House says

Biden lands in Eagle County, kicking off creation of Camp Hale — Continental Divide National Monument

The area around Camp Hale seen from an ECO Flight plane Tuesday, Oct. 11, between Red Cliff and Leadville. Camp Hale is being dedicated a National Monument by President Joe Biden Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Air Force 1 landed in Eagle County on around 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, for President Joe Biden to designate Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range as a national monument. 

Leaders across the Western Slope commended the Camp Hale — Continental Divide National Monument designation. Rep. Joe Neguse told the Summit Daily that the executive order was an “incredible milestone” for stakeholders who have spent years working toward the designation, from local governments to environmental advocates to veterans and their families. 

“I couldn’t be more excited that the president has decided to take this step to protect Camp Hale and honor and commemorate its storied legacy in terms of the work of the service of the 10th Mountain Division that trained there during World War II,” Neguse said. “I am equally excited about the announcement that he has made regarding the protection of the Thompson Divide, which is an incredibly important and pristine part of our state that merits protection.”

President Joe Biden landed at Eagle County Regional Airport Wednesday morning before transferring to Camp Hale via motorcade.
Sean Naylor/Vail Daily

The division underwent intense training at Camp Hale, unlike any other in the U.S. military, with soldiers — who, on average, weighed 128 pounds and measured 5-foot-8-inches — working up to carrying at least 94 pounds on wooden skis measuring 7 feet, 6 inches long. Soldiers also spent nights out in the freezing cold to prepare them for the harsh conditions that met them in the Italian Alps, where they fought and won battles. The training site was chosen specifically for its surrounding mountain terrain and wilderness. After the war, many of these soldiers would return to the area, lending their training and expertise to the ski industry. More than 60 ski areas in the United States, including many of Colorado’s ski areas, have origins and a history of development with 10th Mountain Division veterans.

Rep. Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat who represents Summit County at the State House of Representatives, said that the decision will protect acres of Colorado land, including mountains and rivers. McCluskie led 34 state lawmakers in sending a letter to Biden urging him to protect public lands in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Act, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives but has stalled numerous times in the Senate. 

“This is great news for Colorado and the Western Slope, and I’m grateful that President Biden has acted on our recommendations and the overwhelming support of our communities for this proposal,” McCluskie said. “The new national monument will protect our environment and memorialize the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division soldiers who trained at Camp Hale and bravely served our nation.” 

Rep. Lauren Boebert, a staunch opponent to the CORE Act, called the move a “land grab and attack on affordable energy.” Biden’s visit on Wednesday also included conservation of the Thompson Divide and will prohibit new mining claims and the issuance of new Federal mineral leases on approximately 225,000 acres. The Thompson Divide area has not been available for oil and gas leasing for several years, and there is no current or planned oil exploration or production in the area.

“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 …” Boebert said in a statement.

According to a release from the White House, the monument will not affect any permits held by the area’s ski resorts and will not restrict activities outside of the monument’s boundaries.

“The monument will be protected for future generations while continuing to support a wide range of recreation opportunities, recognizing the ongoing use of the area for outdoor recreation, including skiing, hiking, camping, and snowmobiling,” according to a White House statement issued Wednesday morning. “The management plan will also help guide the development of education and interpretative resources, to share the area’s full story, from the history of Indigenous peoples, to the heroic training and service of the 10th Mountain Division, while maintaining space for the area’s growing recreation economy.”

The proclamation allows for continued remediation of contaminated lands and for continued avalanche and snow safety management, wildfire response and prevention, and ecological restoration.

Designations under the Antiquities Act apply only to lands owned or controlled by the federal government, not land owned privately or by any local governments. White River National Forest will manage the 53,804-acre national monument and develop a management plan to protect cultural resources and the objects of historic and scientific interest identified in the proclamation. 

“It is special that the president’s first national monument is right here in Colorado, in the 2nd Congressional District, in the heart of the most iconic mountain communities in America — in Summit and Eagle counties,” Neguse added. “It’s a very exciting day — exciting week. I look forward to celebrating this and being able to bring my-four year-old daughter up to Camp Hale, and also look forward to continuing to work to ensure that the remaining areas within the CORE Act that merit protection get across the finish line, which we intend to do.”

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