Rally on Saturday in Vail to make Camp Hale a national monument
Special to The Aspen Times
Colorado ski towns could have a national monument right in their backyards, relatively speaking, and supporters hope it happens this fall.
This Saturday, Vet Voice Foundation, community leaders, elected officials and 10th Mountain veterans — including a 100-year-old 10th Mountain veteran — will gather with the public at the Colorado Snowsports Museum for a rally to support the proposed Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument.
“There will be a lot of fun and interactive ways people can get their voices heard and encourage President Biden to designate this to be a national monument, through tweeting, postcards, social-media posting, photos with the 10th Mountain Division and signs,” said Susie Kincaid, a rally organizer.
If the area becomes a national monument, it would be “an important step” toward protecting approximately 400,000 acres of land in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act from logging, mining and drilling, she said.
CORE is a 10-year-long citizens’ campaign that has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives five times but stalled in the Senate. It would safeguard areas including the Thompson Divide, the San Juan Mountains, the Continental Divide and Camp Hale as well as the Curecanti National Recreation Area.
CORE Act champions, including Sens. Bennet and Hickenlooper, Rep. Neguse and Gov. Polis, are urging the Biden administration to designate the Camp Hale-Continental Divide region a national monument through executive action.
“The ultimate goal continues to be to pass the bill in Congress and have it signed into law,” Kincaid said. “Local communities across Colorado have joined together to protect these places for over a decade. These executive actions are ways to move forward now.”
According to a study by The Center for Western Priorities, 86% of Coloradans support the president taking executive action by designating a new national monument to protect land in the CORE Act, including 92% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans and 83% of Independents surveyed.
Yet, opposition to the designation exists. A letter to Pre. Biden from Rep. Lauren Boebert’s office urged him to refuse to make Camp Hale a national monument.
The letter expressed “grave concern regarding new efforts to unilaterally impose severe land-use restrictions on the people of Colorado and across the American West. … For years, big-city democrats … have attempted to implement massive new land grabs through the so-called Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act. The CORE Act land grab seeks to impose increased land restrictions on nearly 400,000 acres, 73,000 of which would be designated as new wilderness and close numerous forms of outdoor recreation and multiple-use, exacerbating wildfires in the process.”
The last action to protect large regions of public land in Colorado came in the form of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act in December 2014 and the designation of Browns Canyon National Monument in February 2015.
“Administrative action through a national monument designation via the Antiquities Act by President Biden would permanently protect Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range, while honoring Colorado’s military legacy at the home of the 10th Mountain Division ski troops and the vast alpine terrain where they trained,” wrote Jim Ramey, regional director of the Wilderness Society, in a press release. “Protecting this place would be a unique and powerful tribute to those who served our country in World War II, then came home to build our skiing and outdoor recreation economy.”
The Antiquities Act grants the president power to determine how much land to protect under historic or scientific interest.
In a Colorado State Rep. Julie McCluskie-led letter to Pres. Biden supported by 30 Colorado state senators and representatives, she wrote: “These landscapes are simply too important for conservation and historic and cultural preservation to become the subject of ephemeral political whims. … While our advocacy on behalf of the legislation and our constituents will continue, the protection of these landscapes requires your immediate action. By conserving these lands, you will preserve a rich part of this country’s history through historic landmarks and objects of historic and scientific interest, and we know it will provide a path for your administration to protect additional public lands in Colorado in the future.”
Saturday’s rally at the Snowsports Museum in Vail extends the original 10th Mountain Division’s “can-do” attitude into the present-day environment, according to Kincaid.
“They had this ‘nothing is impossible’ attitude, and they brought that to the ski industry, and that’s how places like Vail got carved out of a sheep pasture,” Kincaid said.
Prior to the rally, anyone can take part in free events, including hikes and historical tours, in a sort of a choose-your-own-adventure.
At 9 a.m., people can meet at the 10th Mountain Division memorial atop Tennessee Pass where a member of the modern 10th Mountain Division will talk briefly about the healing power of nature and how it has helped soldiers returning from war. Jack Breeding from 10th Mountain Living History will also talk about how Camp Hale developed.
Driving and short walking tours will start at 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. at the entrance to Camp Hale. Participants will visit and learn about the camp’s headquarters, fieldhouse, climbing wall and rifle range.
Two hikes also start at 10 a.m: one for families with small children and a 4-mile moderate hike to Cataract Falls, as people walk in the footsteps of the 10th Mountain troopers while learning about the trail and national monument designation. Mountain Mamas leads the Tyke Hike to the climbing wall soldiers trained on, as well as a waterfall at Camp Hale.
“It will be a fun, educational and exciting day with all of these diverse events,” Kincaid said. “It’s an opportunity to be a part of history. We’re about to have a national monument in Eagle County, and that’s really exciting. We’re hoping it happens this fall.”
But, the office of Boebert’s letter warned Pre. Biden that “without local buy in, any designation of land under the Antiquities Act will be subject to considerable controversy, as well as never-ending litigation. … When the Antiquities Act is used as a workaround to the Congress and the will of the American people, the accompanying land designation rarely receives public support.”
It cited stakeholders who have formally objected to legislation containing CORE Act provisions, including American Energy Alliance, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Forests Resource Council, American Loggers Council, National Mining Association and Colorado organizations, such as Colorado Snowmobile Association, Dolores County, Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Mesa County, Montezuma County, Trails Preservation Alliance and more.
“While Camp Hale and our service members (who) were stationed there made important contributions to WWII, we don’t support the efforts of extremist environmentalists … to prohibit timber harvesting and mining on nearly 30,000 acres of land,” the letter stated. “A second request made by our colleagues would permanently withdraw 200,000 acres of land in the Thompson Divide — an area blessed with an abundance of natural-gas deposits — from energy exploration. Notwithstanding the fact that natural gas prices have surged to a 14-year high, this request is a solution in search of a problem since the area of controversy has already been administratively withdrawn.”
While Boebert urges the president to “allow the CORE Act to stand or fall on its own merits in the Congress,” CORE supporters will continue to rally to protect the land at Saturday’s event.
What: Celebrate our Public Lands rally, historical tours and hikes
For: Proposed Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument
Saturday’s activities: 9-9:30 a.m. Camp Hale Memorial atop Tennessee Pass
10-11:30 a.m. Tyke Hike at Camp Hale
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Continental Divide Trail Coalition 4-mile moderate hike to Cataract Falls
10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 10:30 to 1 p.m. two separate tours, with history of Camp Hale
2:30 p.m. National Monument Rally at Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail
More info: wilderness-workshop.org (under events)
Presented by: Members of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act coalition and the Colorado Snowsports Museum
Before Kohlhepp sat with two very different people as each one died a decade ago, she somewhat feared dying. But after being present with each, her fear transformed into a curiosity. Now, she wants to help others become more comfortable with the subject — and with death itself. Thursday, she hosts a Death Café to encourage meaningful discussion about death, along with Aspen Psychedelics Resource Center, at Explore Booksellers.