Oct 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

A WWII training ground becomes Biden’s first national monument

Parts of a field house still standing at Camp Hale in Colorado in March 2015.

Parts of a field house still standing at Camp Hale in Colorado in March 2015. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

President Biden traveled to Colorado on Wednesday and designated Camp Hale, a World War II-era training ground, as a new national monument, the first such designation of his presidency.

Why it matters: Camp Hale was the initial training ground for the 10th Mountain Division, the U.S. Army's first and only mountain infantry division. The division played a pivotal role in the liberation of Italy in WWII.

What they're saying: "“When you think about the national beauty of Colorado and the history of our nation, you find it here,” Biden said at Camp Hale on Wednesday before signing the the proclamation establishing Camp Hale — Continental Divide National Monument.

  • "I'm honored to sign this proclamation to preserve this special part of our military history," Biden added. "This is the story of America the beautiful."
  • "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 earlier Wednesday.
  • It also said the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior would announce new protections for the Thompson Divide, a large swath of public lands within the White River National Forest.

Between the lines: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D), who is facing an unexpectedly tight re-election race this November, has been a proponent of establishing Camp Hale as a national monument and protecting the Thompson Divide.

  • He introduced legislation, the CORE Act, in the Senate last year that would have established the same designation and protections, but it has not moved forward.
  • A similar bill passed the House last Congress but failed in the Senate.
  • “You ensure that, years from now, we can bring our kids, grandkids here and tell them the story of the 10th Mountain Division and their contributions not only to Colorado but to humanity,” Bennet said of Biden's proclamation.

The big picture: At Camp Hale, the 10th Mountain Division received extensive winter and mountain warfare training, with soldiers learning how to rock climb, snowshoe and ski.

  • The Camp Hale area was also a home and place of significance for Indigenous peoples like the Ute Tribes.
  • The White House said the USDA and DOI would propose a 20-year hold on new mining claims and mineral leases on approximately 225,000 acres in the Thompson Divide area, which is home to wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities and grazing lands.
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