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Biden designates Camp Hale in Colorado as his first national monument

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters as he departs for Puerto Rico from the White House in Washington, U.S., October 3, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Wednesday designated a World War II-era military site in Colorado as a national monument, a move that will protect the historic region’s rare wildlife and plants from development.

Camp Hale is best known as the location used by soldiers of the U.S. 10th Mountain Division to train for alpine warfare in the 1940s, according to a White House fact sheet. The Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument will protect more than 50,000 acres that provide critical habitat for wildlife such as elk, lynxes and songbirds.

“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.”

In addition to creating the new national monument, the administration also announced a proposed mineral withdrawal for Colorado’s Thompson Divide, a large region of mountains, lakes and forests. The withdrawal, which local officials and environmental groups have urged for more than a decade, would protect over 200,000 acres from potential new mining or oil and gas drilling.

The Interior Department and the Forest Service will seek public comment and conduct an environmental analysis on the impacts of stopping energy development in the Thompson Divide for two decades, the White House said.

Winds whip the snow around Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Camp Hale, Colo. Top Colorado Democrats are asking President Joe Biden to declare a new national monument in the heart of the state’s Rocky Mountains.
Chris Dillmann | Vail Daily via AP

“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.

The White House said Biden was signing the proclamation ahead of a stop in Vail, Colorado, on Wednesday to announce the establishment of the monument.

In a letter to the president in September, House Republicans led by Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert argued that designating Camp Hale as a national monument would “impose severe land-use restrictions” on area that could be used for timber harvesting and mining.

Today’s move comes after the president last year restored protections to Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument after the Trump administration reduced those protections in 2019.

“This is a critical step toward ensuring these public lands do not succumb to the same destruction that so many of our other treasured places have,” Michael Freeman, a senior attorney at Earthjustice, said in response to the administration’s announcement.

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