Gov. Jared Polis, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. John Hickenlooper speak at Camp Hale in Eagle County on Aug. 16, 2022. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
Multiple Colorado leaders penned a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to take action to protect lands legislators originally hoped to protect under the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. Now the leaders are asking Biden to protect the lands through the Antiquities Act and other presidential authorities.
Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper — all Democrats — signed the letter asking Biden to designate Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range as the “Camp Hale — Continental Divide National Monument.”
“Based on the overwhelming support expressed at the meeting and throughout the years from local elected leaders, conservation stakeholders, sportsmen, ranchers, business leaders, veterans and the 10th Mountain Division Foundation it is clear that Coloradans across the state support the conservation and preservation of these landscapes for future generations,” the letter reads. “We strongly urge you to use your Presidential authorities to swiftly protect Colorado’s public lands within the CORE Act.”
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Camp Hale is the former base near Leadville in Eagle County where 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained before heading to fight in World War II. The U.S. Army continued to use the location for winter training exercises until 1965, and it is now a popular recreation spot. The letter says the site’s history makes it the “ideal candidate for a national monument designation.” Since the start of his presidency, Biden has yet to make any national monument designations.
The political leaders also asked Biden to protect Colorado’s Thompson Divide through a Federal Lands Policy and Management Act mineral withdrawal, among other protections.
“This action would ban new oil and gas leasing, as well as mining, on a landscape where community members, including farmers and ranchers, have come together to request protection,” the letter reads. “We also ask that you bring new protections to the areas of the CORE Act proposed for wilderness designation, mineral withdrawal and special management areas on the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests by using the upcoming U.S. Forest Service plan revisions or other administrative tools.”
While the original hope was to pass the CORE Act, which has repeatedly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, it has failed to make it through a deadlocked Senate. The letter says the legislators will continue to fight to pass the CORE Act, but they want the president’s help in the meantime to “offer administrative protections modeled after the bill.”
The request comes just 10 days after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak visited Camp Hale alongside the same Colorado leaders. Vilsak during the visit said he’s “got to talk to the president.”
On top of this letter, the group of Colorado leaders included a letter Bennet received signed by seven Colorado county commissioners in support of taking executive action to protect lands including in the CORE Act.
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