Maybe the headline from the official White House website doesn’t sound all that exciting to you: “President Biden Designates Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument.” To be honest, I’m not from Colorado and I’ve never heard of Camp Hale. Maybe I’ll get to visit this new National Monument one day, but it’s not something that has some immediate and direct benefit for me. But it’s an underrated move by the Biden administration and one of the perqs of electing a Democratic president.
For starters, there’s more to it than indicated in the headline.
As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protect, conserve, and restore our country’s iconic outdoor spaces and historical sites for the benefit of future generations, today President Biden signed a proclamation establishing the Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument. 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.
In addition, the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and the Interior (DOI) announced a proposed withdrawal to protect the Thompson Divide in western Colorado, one of the state’s most cherished landscapes.
I was interested to learn that Camp Hale is where the 10th Mountain Division was established and trained to fight through the Alps in World War Two. Part of this move is intended to honor that history, as well as the history of the Ute tribe members who lived in the area prior to being pushed onto reservations.
But I got even more enthusiastic when I looked into what’s been going on in the Thompson Divide. I highly recommend reading this article from the last year of the Obama administration that explores the massive boon of oil and gas exploration the western slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and how the local communities have organized in response to protect the tourism industry.
It’s not just important for the livelihood of locals who work in the hunting, fishing and recreation industries. We’re talking about some of the most pristine and beautiful wilderness remaining in America. For the same reason Teddy Roosevelt set up the system of using the Antiquities Act to conserve the jewels of the American West, we should value what Biden has done here.
I’m going to mark this down and put it on my bucket list. I may not be interested in hunting elk or other big game that’s abundant in the Thompson Divide, but I might enjoy hiking or trout fishing there. And it’ll be nice if the trout is swimming in creeks not befouled by the oil and gas industry.
The White House has made that possible.
Today, DOI and USDA are also announcing steps to conserve the Thompson Divide area in western Colorado, one of the state’s most cherished landscapes. In response to broad concerns about protecting Thompson Divide’s important wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, grazing lands and clean air and water, the administration is proposing a 20-year withdrawal of the Thompson Divide area from disposition under the public land laws, mining laws, and mineral and geothermal leasing laws, subject to valid existing rights.
This may seem like a small thing, but small things like this pile up and become a significant legacy. We should all stop and notice.