President Biden expected to designate Camp Hale as a national monument

Monument would be non-contiguous, including Camp Hale and Tenmile Range

John LaConte
Vail Daily
From left, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper gather at Camp Hale on Tuesday, August 16. The group is supportive of the creation of a new national monument in the area, which hosted some 14,000 ski troops during World War II.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

President Joe Biden will travel to Colorado next week to designate Camp Hale as a national monument, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

An administration official has confirmed the trip, according to the Los Angeles Times, though it is unclear which areas of the state the president will be visiting. The Los Angeles Times also reported that officials are working out the logistics of getting the president to Camp Hale, writing that “such a trip would likely require Biden to fly to Eagle County Regional Airport on Air Force One and then take Marine One to the site itself.”

In the 1940s the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army trained at Camp Hale, where an estimated 14,000 troops bore harsh winter conditions while preparing for the rigors of Alpine combat in World War II. Camp Hale is located in the Eagle-Holy Cross ranger district within the White River National Forest.

10th Mountain Division veterans and local leaders have been advocating for Camp Hale’s designation as a national monument in recent months, with hopes that the designation would occur while some veterans remain alive.

In August, secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack visited Camp Hale and pledged to bring the designation in front of Biden. Later that month, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, along with Gov. Jared Polis and Rep. Joe Neguse, sent a letter to President Biden urging the president to create a new national monument at Camp Hale. A rally was held in Vail in support of the designation in September.

The creation of a national monument at Camp Hale follows numerous attempts to create a new land designation called a National Historic Landscape at Camp Hale. That effort was included in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives five times but has stalled in the Senate.

In advocating for a national monument at Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range, Vilsack referenced the CORE Act.

“Mr. President, I know that you’re supportive of the CORE Act, but in the meantime, as we work in the Senate to get that done, are there things that we can do now and should do now? Because there is a high expectation of you and of me, Mr. President, and frankly, I don’t want to disappoint these people,” Vilsack said during a visit to Camp Hale in August.

Boundaries were tweaked last week

Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr, on Thursday, said the commissioners had not received any official communication indicating that Biden might be coming to town.

Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis was unavailable to be reached for comment on Thursday. But in a meeting about local forestry efforts on Sept. 29, Deputy District Ranger Mike Smith said earlier that day he had seen drawings of the boundaries proposed for the national monument.

Smith said the plan was still to make the national monument a non-contiguous monument, with two separate areas creating one monument known as the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument. One area would surround Camp Hale in Eagle County, and the other portion of the monument area would be located in the Tenmile Range in Summit County.

The Camp Hale part of the monument would not include the area across the highway known as No Name, Smith said, according to the drawing he saw on Sept. 29. The No Name area is set to receive thinning treatments to lodgepole pine stands in 2023.

“It’s still being tweaked,” Smith said, on Sept. 29, of the monument boundaries. “The soldiers trained in that entire valley obviously, and up on the hillsides, but the monument itself is down on the valley floor, according to the last (map drawing) I’ve seen.”

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