Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument preserves valuable fish and wildlife habitat, historic military site
EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – Valuable wildlife habitat in central Colorado will be permanently preserved following today’s designation as Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument by President Joe Biden. Encompassing more than 10,000 acres of critical winter range for elk and mule deer habitat, migration corridors and headwater fisheries, the area is also home to a historic military site, Camp Hale, a the Second World War.
A broad coalition of hunting and fishing groups, including the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, have long advocated for the area’s long-term conservation. BHA staff were present in Colorado today, where the president announced his decision and praised the administration’s decision.
“Hunters and fishermen 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 present for the president’s announcement. “We are pleased with the administration’s decision to heed the call of millions of citizens and take far-sighted action in support of these irreplaceable landscapes.
“The Antiquities Act is a crucial tool for conserving great landscapes, ensuring important habitat for fish and wildlife, and maintaining hunting and angling opportunities,” Gale continued. “Since President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law in 1906, it has been used by 17 presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, to ensure the long-term conservation of places important to hunters and fishermen.”
Today marks the first time that 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 variety of diverse interests, including hunters and fishermen, to conserve specific lands and waters in Colorado. Legislation known as the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE Act, that would accomplish this has passed the House five times, but has so far failed to advance in the Senate. Today’s administration announcement takes a step toward fulfilling the promise of the CORE Act.
“Camp Hale is an essential piece of US military history, but it is often forgotten outside of Colorado,” said Trevor Hubbs, BHA Armed Services Initiative coordinator. “Camp Hale is where the Army’s first Mountain Unit was born and where it would be called the 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry division, trained to insert itself into the European theater of World War II.
“The creation of the Tenth Mountain depended on the volunteerism of American outdoor men and women who could thrive in the high alpine conditions in which they were asked to fight,” Hubbs continued. “Hunters, trappers, skiers and climbers were assembled, after the presentation of no less than three letters of recommendation each, to be invited to train with the 10th.
“Camp Hale was built specifically to train these volunteers for an alpine mission in northwestern Europe,” said Hubbs. “That mission reached the mountains of northern Italy, where the 10th was sent to clear Nazi outposts that had hampered America’s advance for months. The reputation of the Camp Hale training and the 10th Mountain’s prowess in alpine space is so well known that the 10th was the first and last combat division asked to take over the mountains of Afghanistan”.
Also today, the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior announced the start of a 20-year mineral extraction for more than 200,000 acres of the Thompson Divide region of western Colorado, which includes important fish and wildlife habitat. Existing rights will be respected under the proposal. This action was also included in the text of the CORE Act and has received strong support and commitment from local stakeholders, including BHA members in Colorado.
The BHA has always championed the United States’ system of national monuments and the judicious use of the Antiquities Act as a means of permanently conserving important great landscapes. Key to achieving this outcome is a process that adheres to specific principles and is locally driven, transparent, incorporates science-based habitat management, and upholds existing hunting and fishing opportunities.
In 2016, the BHA and a consortium of outdoor groups and businesses released a report on how national monument designations can support important fish and wildlife habitat while maintaining access to traditional hunting and fishing.
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