President Joe Biden officially designated a historic military site, Camp Hale, in Colorado as a new national monument on Wednesday. The move proved doubly strategic, as it protects the historic site and could also ban mining and drilling in the area.
Colorado’s Camp Hale is a World War II-era military training ground along the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains and the Tenmile Range. This region attracts visitors for its jaw-dropping views, and it provides habitat for wildlife including elk, bears, otters, mountain lions, and migratory birds.
Biden hasn’t created a national monument during his tenure until now. The designation bypasses Capitol Hill, where Republicans and Democrats remain gridlocked over most legislation.
“This action will honor our nation’s veterans, Indigenous people, and their legacy by protecting this Colorado landscape, while supporting jobs and America’s outdoor recreation economy,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “The president is building on a series of steps the administration has taken to protect some of America’s most cherished lands and waters.”
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who currently faces a tough reelection contest, had been calling on Biden to permanently designate and protect this area and other historic sites. He stood beside Biden during his designation ceremony which took place on Wednesday.
During World War II, Camp Hale served as training grounds for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. The area housed up to 17,000 troops. At an elevation of 9,200 feet, the site was ideal for training in skiing, snowshoeing and rock climbing. All skills that soldiers used to defeat Axis powers in Italy.
President Biden’s Camp Hale National Monument Designation First of His Presidency
Additionally, after the war, some of the same soldiers who labored at what they called “Camp Hell” returned to the region. There, they helped launch Colorado’s booming ski industry.
In addition to creating the new national monument, the administration also announced a proposed mineral withdrawal for Colorado’s Thompson Divide. Thompson Divide consists of a large region of mountains, lakes and forests. The withdrawal has been urged by local officials and environmental groups for more than a decade. It would protect over 200,000 acres from potential new mining or oil and gas drilling.
The Interior Department and the Forest Service will conduct an environmental analysis on the impacts of stopping energy development in the Thompson Divide for two decades, the White House said.
“A coalition of hunters, ranchers, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts and community leaders have worked for decades to ensure the Thompson Divide area is protected,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.
“Today the Biden-Harris administration is taking an important and sensible step to ensure that we have the science and public input necessary to make informed decisions about sustainable management of public lands in the Thompson Divide area,” Haaland said.