Guest commentary: Sen. Cory Gardner needs to honor vets with ‘yes’ vote for CORE Act |

Guest commentary: Sen. Cory Gardner needs to honor vets with ‘yes’ vote for CORE Act

John Tripp, Richard Merritt and Greg Poschman
Guest commentary

On this Veterans Day, we are reminded of the brave soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, who trained at Camp Hale outside of Leadville and defended our country during World War II.

As we remember these veterans today, we encourage fellow citizens to contact Sen. Cory Gardner to ask him to honor them by voting “Yes” for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act in the U.S. Senate. Earlier this month, we celebrated a landmark victory for the bill when it passed the U.S. House of Representatives — a victory that brings us closer than ever before to realizing protections for several beloved places in western Colorado.

The CORE Act would protect 400,000 acres of land across four landscapes — areas that have each been introduced in Congress as stand-alone legislative proposals in the past. It will create new and sustainable recreational opportunities and expand wilderness in the White River and San Juan National Forests, permanently remove Thompson Divide from new oil and gas leasing, increase public access to and management of fishing areas in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, and importantly, honor our veterans (and many of the founding members of the modern recreation industry in Colorado) by establishing Camp Hale as the nation’s first National Historic Landscape.

These 400,000 acres include some of Colorado’s most beautiful landscapes, as well as prime wildlife habitat and offer tremendous opportunities for connection to the natural world through all types of recreation. Notably, our beloved Thompson Divide, which spans more than 15 watersheds in Garfield, Pitkin and Gunnison counties, also provides clean water and high-quality grazing for agricultural and ranching operations.

As veterans who fought in Italy during World War II and in the Vietnam War to protect our country and public lands, and as the son of a 10th Mountain Division veteran, Sgt. Harry Poschman, we believe that passing the CORE Act honors all veterans. Designating and protecting historic Camp Hale and all the landscapes within this bill is essential to preventing these lands from being diminished by private interests, and most importantly, preserving them in perpetuity for future generations.

Camp Hale was the only military installment in the nation to provide high-altitude combat training to soldiers who were preparing to fight in the harsh winter conditions of the Italian Apennines during WWII. At an elevation of 9,200 feet, the location was ideal for creating an elite ski corps that was highly advanced in alpine and nordic skiing, mountain climbing, and cold-weather combat and survival.

Before the last of the 10th Mountain Division troopers pass on, Colorado’s senators and congressmen should join forces to honor them by designating this landscape, as well as protect the 400,000 acres of land proposed in the CORE Act. Now that the bill’s fate rests in the hands of the Senate, Sen. Gardner has a real opportunity to be a champion for Colorado’s public lands, which are so important to the identity and vitality of our state.

The CORE Act has been widely vetted through years of community engagement, and the final bill is the result of compromise and collaboration among a broad and diverse set of stakeholders. Sen. Gardner has not yet taken a position on the bill and it is our hope that he will become an advocate for it, helping to distinguish Colorado as a leader for public lands stewardship among the Western states. Now we need your help!

Please take a moment to contact him today and ask him to vote “Yes” for this legislation. Call 202-224-5941 or

John Tripp, 100, of Carbondale is the Roaring Fork Valley’s last living 10th Mountain Division and a WWII veteran. Lt. Col. Richard Merritt USMC (Ret) of Basalt is a Vietnam veteran. Greg Poschman of Aspen is a Pitkin County Commissioner whose father trained at Camp Hale.