Camp Hale Pond

Camp Hale Pond, near the headwaters of the Eagle River in Eagle County in Colorado's Upper Eagle River Canyon, is pictured in this 2016 photograph by Carol M. Highsmith.

Dozens of state politicians and local leaders wrote to President Joe Biden, urging him to use his executive powers to protect Colorado’s public lands by designating Camp Hale and a surrounding mountain range as a national historic monument.

Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range are where the 10th Mountain Division trained for mountain and winter warfare during World War II. Veterans of the division returned to the state after the war and established Colorado’s ski areas, spawning the lucrative industry in the state. Under the proposed executive action, the camp and more than 28,000 surrounding acres would become the country's first national historic landscape.

In several letters, 34 Democratic state legislators, four veterans' associations, three mayors, 22 county commissioners, 43 conservation groups and 47 local business owners threw their support behind the land designation.

“It is past time for these remarkable public lands to be protected,” said the letter from the state legislators. “There are few opportunities to experience and appreciate the history of World War II in our country and the sacrifices made by so many of its citizens. However, Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range are living artifacts to that sacrifice and they also happen to be some of our nations’ most beautiful public lands.”

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet delivered the letters to Biden on Tuesday — one month after Bennet, Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse sent their own letter asking Biden to enact administrative protections for many of the landscapes included in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy (CORE) Act.

The CORE Act is a sweeping public lands bill that would protect more than 400,000 acres of public land across the state, establish new wilderness areas and safeguard existing outdoor recreation opportunities. Sponsored by Bennet, Hickenlooper and Neguse, the CORE Act has passed the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives five times but has so far failed to make it through the evenly divided U.S. Senate, needing the support of at least 60 senators to get past a threatened Republican filibuster. 

In addition to designating the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, Bennet and the others also called on Biden to ban fossil fuel leasing and mining on the Thompson Divide and to protect the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, areas proposed for wilderness designation in the CORE Act.

Though supporters are still aiming to pass the CORE Act through the Senate, their letters argue that executive action is needed from Biden to secure progress and address immediate impacts to public lands from climate change.

“While we continue to work ... 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,” said the letter from the Vet Voice Foundation and over 30 other organizations. 

Colorado Politics reporter Ernest Luning contributed to this report. 

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