BHA Commends Administration Designation of National Monument in Colorado

News for Immediate Release
Oct. 12, 2022
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]

Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument conserves valuable fish and wildlife habitat, historic military site

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – Valuable wildlife habitat in central Colorado will be permanently conserved following today’s designation of Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument by President Joe Biden. Encompassing more than 10,000 acres of critical winter range for elk as well as mule deer habitat, migration corridors and headwaters fisheries, the area also is home to a historic military site, Camp Hale, a World War II-era training ground.

A broad coalition of hunting and fishing groups, including Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, has long advocated for the area’s long-term conservation. BHA staff were present today in Colorado where the president announced the designation and commended the administration’s decision.

“Hunters and anglers in Colorado have been working with local communities for more than a decade to permanently conserve these public lands and waters and important fish and wildlife habitat,” said BHA Conservation Director John Gale, who was on hand for the president’s announcement. “We’re pleased with the administration’s decision to heed the call of millions of citizens and undertake foresighted action in support of these irreplaceable landscapes.

“The Antiquities Act is a crucial tool to conserve large landscapes, secure important fish and wildlife habitat and uphold hunting and angling opportunities,” Gale continued. “Since it was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, it’s been used by 17 presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, to ensure the long-term conservation of places important to hunters and anglers.”

Today marks the first time President Biden has exercised his executive authority to create a national monument under the Antiquities Act. It also culminates a years-long, community-driven effort by a range of diverse interests, including hunters and anglers, to conserve specific lands and waters in Colorado. Legislation known as the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act, which would accomplish this, passed the House five times but so far has failed to advance in the Senate. The administration’s announcement today takes a step toward fulfilling the CORE Act’s promise.

“Camp Hale is an essential piece of U.S. military history, but one often forgotten outside of Colorado,” said Trevor Hubbs, BHA Armed Forces Initiative coordinator. “Camp Hale is where the Army’s first Mountain Unit was born and where what would be called the 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry division, trained for insertion into the European theater of WWII.

“The creation of the 10th Mountain was dependent on the volunteerism of American outdoorsmen and women who could thrive in the high alpine conditions in which they would be asked to fight,” Hubbs continued. “Hunters, trappers, skiers and mountain climbers all were brought together – following the submission of no fewer than three letters of recommendation each – to be invited to train with the 10th.

“Camp Hale was specifically built to train these volunteers for an alpine mission in northwestern Europe,” said Hubbs. “That mission came in the mountains of northern Italy where the 10th was sent to clear Nazi outposts that had stymied U.S. advancement for months. The reputation of Camp Hale’s training and of the 10th Mountain’s ability in the alpine space is so renowned that the 10th was the first and last combat division asked to take on the mountains of Afghanistan.”

Also today, the departments of Agriculture and the Interior announced the initiation of a 20-year mineral withdrawal process for more than 200,000 acres of western Colorado’s Thompson Divide region, which comprises important fish and wildlife habitat. Existing rights and uses will be respected under the proposal. This action was included in the text of the CORE Act as well and has received strong support and engagement from local stakeholders including BHA members in Colorado.

BHA has consistently advocated for America’s national monuments system and the judicious use of the Antiquities Act as a way to permanently conserve important large landscapes. Key to achieving this outcome is a process that adheres to specific tenets and is locally driven, transparent, incorporates the science-based management of habitat, and upholds existing hunting and fishing opportunities.

In 2016, BHA and a consortium of outdoor groups and businesses released a report on how national monument designations can sustain important fish and wildlife habitat while maintaining traditional hunting and fishing access.

Read National Monuments: A Sportsman’s Perspective.

Image credit: United States Forest Service.

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About Katie McKalip