What is the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument?

President Joe Biden designated thousands of acres of federal land in Colorado as a national monument on Wednesday, October 12, 2022.

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The Camp Hale-Continental Divide National monument with fall foliage

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President Joe Biden designated thousands of acres of federal land in Colorado as a national monument on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. Here’s everything you need to know about the president’s first National Monument designation.

What is a national monument?

A national monument is an area on federal land that can be set aside for conservation due to its historic or scientific significance. The president can use the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate a national monument, which is something that 18 presidents have done.

What is Camp Hale?

Camp Hale is a former army base nestled in the Rocky Mountains, just 15 miles from Leadville, Colorado. Local residents know the area for its stunning hikes and rugged snowsports terrain. In addition to outdoor recreationists, elk, bear, lynx, migratory songbirds and other animals rely on Camp Hale for habitat. These creatures thrive amid stunning vistas and some of  the United States’ tallest peaks. 

Why does Camp Hale need protection?

Camp Hale stands out for its historic legacy: the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division trained at Camp Hale between 1942 and 1945. The soldiers of the 10th Division were sent to the Apennine Mountains in Italy during World War II, where they fought the battle of Riva Ridge among others across the Italian Front. While these battles cost the division 1,000 lives and nearly 4,000 injuries, victory was possible because the 10th Mountain Division soldiers were highly skilled in mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing and surviving brutal winter conditions.

After WWII, many of the 10th mountain division soldiers that trained at Camp Hale came back to Colorado and helped found our state’s modern snowsports industry. Designating the Camp Hale-National Monument will commemorate the veterans who gave so much to our country and state.

Camp Hale historic structures
Brent Flanders via Flickr | Used by permission
Camp Hale historic structures

What is the Continental Divide?

The Continental Divide is a hydrologic boundary: water that falls West of the divide flows towards the Pacific Ocean and water that falls East of the divide flows towards the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Continental Divide in Colorado is just one portion of the Great Divide, which spans from the Northern tip of Alaska to the Southern tip of Argentina. 

Why does the Continental Divide need protection?

In Colorado, protecting the Continental Divide is crucial – ecologically and economically. Amid the most severe megadrought in 1,200 years, the Western U.S. must do everything that it can to protect our freshwater resources. That means protecting the Continental Divide, the origin of the Arkansas, Rio Grande and the Colorado Rivers – the Colorado River alone supplies 40 million people with water.

What does the national monument designation do?

Designating the Camp Hale- Continental Divide as a national monument provides moreColorado public lands with protections. This will safeguard important ecosystems, irreplaceable historic sites and incredible recreational access. While each National Monument has its own management plan, generally national monuments are protected from land degradation threats. For example, with the national monument designation, no new oil and gas or mining leases will be awarded in the Camp Hale- Continental Divide. Hikers, backpackers, anglers, hunters and every Coloradan will be able to explore the Camp Hale – Continental Divide with assurance that the ecosystems and stunning vistas will be intact for future generations.

Who benefits from a new national monument?

This designation comes after years of support from many stakeholders, including county commissioners, hunters, anglers, mayors, conservation nonprofits, veterans and business owners. The 40 million people who rely on water from the Colorado River can take comfort knowing that the headwaters of their water supply will be protected. There will be no new leases for water-polluting activities, such as mining, oil drilling and grazing. Finally, the new Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument will help ensure the future of endangered Colorado species, such as the black footed ferret and lynx. With this new national monument, everyone will benefit from more pristine nature and a healthier environment for generations to come.

What is the Thompson Divide?

The Thompson Divide is 225,000 acres of public land in Western Colorado, home to roadless forests, tremendous elk herds and famous trout fisheries. When President Biden announced the designation of the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, he also revealed that his administration initiated a process to prohibit new mining leases in the Thompson Divide. Like the Camp Hale-Continental Divide, Colorado residents have been calling for the protection of the Thompson Divide for years. However, new mining leases in the Thompson Divide could disrupt its ecosystems, water and air quality and limit outdoor recreation access in the area. With enough public support, the newly proposed 20-year ban on new mining leases could successfully protect more of Colorado’s incredible public lands.

Ecoflight | Used by permission
Camp Hale Continental Divide National Monument
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Authors

Sammy Herdman

Save The Boreal Forest Campaign, Associate, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Sammy runs the Save the Boreal Forest campaign for Environment America, calling on American corporations to stop degrading forests that are critical for the climate, biodiversity and people. Sammy grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but now lives in Denver. She enjoys snowboarding, camping and reading.

Ellen Montgomery

Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Ellen runs campaigns to protect America's beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver, where she likes to hike in Colorado's mountains.

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