DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s top Democrats called on President Joe Biden on Friday to declare a new national monument in the heart of the state’s Rocky Mountains.
In a letter to Biden, the state’s two Democratic senators, a Democratic governor and a Democratic representative representing the region, called on Biden to create the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument. The reserve was to be centered at Camp Hale, outside Vail, where the legendary 10th Mountain Division trained for alpine warfare during World War II. Many of the soldiers returned to Colorado and played a key role in creating the state’s ski industry.
“The history of the area, including its role in preparing the 10th Mountain Division for the most difficult time of World War II, makes it an ideal candidate for national monument designation.” Hicken Looper, Gov. Jared Polis, Rep. Joe Negse.
The president can permanently preserve any land he deems scenic or of historical importance and unilaterally create national monuments. Biden has yet to create a national monument during his presidency, but has moved to restore land that President Donald Trump has carved out of his two properties in southern Utah. Monuments can be controversial, especially in the West, if they impede energy or other types of development, or close off land that ranchers and farmers expected to use.
Preserving Camp Hale was part of a larger conservation bill known as the CORE Act, which had been dormant in Congress for several years. Many Republicans in Colorado oppose the law, arguing it is a federal eminent domain that prevents the development of important mineral and energy resources.
The Democratic letter acknowledges that the act has stalled and instead calls on Biden to designate his first national monument. The monument includes an unspecified amount of ten-mile range around it. The letter also tells Biden to exercise presidential powers to protect the natural gas-rich region of western Colorado, known as the Thompson Divide, from energy exploration, and to allow exploration and mining in national forests elsewhere in the western United States. We are asking for stricter restrictions on state.
“Taking these steps will ensure that even more vacant land in Colorado is protected for future generations,” the Democrat wrote.
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert said the Western District of Colorado would be home to most of the proposed new limits on energy exploration, but she would not support additional protections for Camp Hale. “I do not support the efforts of radical environmentalists to take over this historic site and create a new land designation,” Boebert said in her statement.