Biden eyes WWII Army training ground Camp Hale for new national monument


Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division parade down a street in Camp Hale, Colorado, probably in 1943. They are wearing their “whites” – winter camouflage uniforms – and carry white skis over their right shoulder as the Rifles are normally carried on parade. (U.S. Army Signal Corps)

President Biden is likely to designate a historic military site in Colorado as a new national monument in the coming weeks, according to two people familiar with the matter, which could ban mining and drilling there.

Camp Hale, Colorado, a World War II-era military training ground along the Great Divide in the Rocky Mountains, and the Tenmile Range have attracted visitors for their stunning scenery and provide habitat for wildlife including elk, bears, otters, lynx and migrating songbirds.

Biden has yet to create a national monument since taking office. The new designation would bypass the stalemate on Capitol Hill, where Republicans have opposed legislation sponsored by Colorado Democrats — including Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), who faces a race to re-election harder than expected – to permanently protect these sites and other historic landscapes in the state.

The official designation of the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument could come as soon as this month, although no final decision has been made, according to a person familiar with the matter, who like others spoke under the guise of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. .

During World War II, Camp Hale served as the training ground for the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, housing up to 17,000 troops. At an elevation of 9,200 feet, the site was ideal for practicing skiing, snowshoeing and rock climbing – skills that ultimately helped soldiers defeat the Axis in Italy. After the war, some of the same soldiers who worked in what they called “Camp Hell” returned to the area to help start Colorado’s booming ski industry.

Bennet urged Biden to protect the area using his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives the president wide latitude to protect public lands and waters for the enjoyment of all Americans. The senator spoke to the president about the matter on Tuesday.

Bennett’s bid for a third term has captured national attention as Democrats fight to hold onto their slim Senate majority. His Republican challenger, Denver business leader Joe O’Dea, acknowledges that Trump lost the 2020 election, unlike many other GOP candidates in states like Arizona and Pennsylvania.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the potential monument announcement. Bennet’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since taking office, Biden has used his powers to restore full protection to three national monuments that had been reduced by former President Donald Trump, including Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, known for their historic treasures. art and Native American settlements.

Biden invoked the Antiquities Act to protect 1.36 million acres in Bears Ears – slightly larger than the original boundary established by President Barack Obama in 2016 – while restoring the 1.87 Grand Staircase-Escalante monument million acres. Biden also reimposed fishing limits in the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the New England coast that Trump had opened to commercial fishing.

Although the size of the new national monument is unclear, Bennet and other Colorado Democrats have introduced a bill with recommendations for its size and boundaries. Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act would protect more than 400,000 acres of public land, including 28,676 acres around Camp Hale and 17,122 acres in the Tenmile Range. The measure is supported by Senator John Hickenlooper and Representatives Joe Neguse, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter.

After passing the House with bipartisan support, the bill stalled in the Senate over opposition from Republicans, who criticized a provision that would remove certain areas from new mining and mining leases. In May, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee found itself in a 10-10 deadlock on the measure along party lines.

“We need to increase American development of energy and critical minerals,” Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the top Republican on the panel, said during a hearing in May. “Now is not the time to permanently withdraw federal lands.”

Over the past 116 years, 17 presidents of both parties have used the law to designate 158 national monuments, according to Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, an advocacy group.

“There are so many conservation bills languishing in Congress that have local support, but it’s hard to get anything through the Senate when it comes to land protection,” Weiss said. “That’s exactly why the Antiquities Act exists.”

Shortly after taking office, Biden set a goal to conserve 30% of the country’s land and water by 2030 as part of the “America the Beautiful” initiative. Administration officials have been monitoring Camp Hale since July 2021, when Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited Colorado and participated in a roundtable with Bennet and Hickenlooper on their legislation to protect the landscape.

Biden officials continued to review other potential national monuments across the country. Last week, Haaland visited a site in southern Nevada known as Avi Kwa Ame, or Spirit Mountain, considered sacred by several Native American tribes.


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