Colorado delegation urges executive action to protect Thompson Divide, Camp Hale
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A delegation of elected officials led by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., wants President Joe Biden to use his executive powers to enact portions of the proposed CORE Act, including protections for the Thompson Divide area near Glenwood Springs.
Bennet, along with Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and Gov. Jared Polis in a Friday letter also ask Biden to take action under the Antiquities Act to declare Colorado’s Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range near Leadville as a national monument.
Both provisions are included in Bennet’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, which would bring permanent protections to over 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado.
With the legislation stalled in the Senate after gaining support on numerous occasions in the U.S. House, commissioners in several western Colorado counties last month urged Bennet to attempt to secure the protections using presidential authorities.
“This legislation has been built from the ground up with years of dedicated stakeholder engagement and enjoys bipartisan support,” the Bennet, Hickenlooper, Neguse and Polis letter to President Biden states. “Regrettably, progress in Congress has stalled despite strong support in Colorado. The time has come to take the next step in protecting the key landscapes within the CORE Act, and we need your help.”
Efforts to withdraw mineral leasing from the roughly 200,000 acres of rugged backcountry known as the Thompson Divide south of Glenwood Springs and west of Carbondale, including portions of Garfield, Pitkin and Gunnison counties, began in the mid-2000s.
Ranchers, recreational enthusiasts and other local entities banded together to form the Thompson Divide Coalition, gathering bipartisan support to urge the Bureau of Land Management to cancel several active but undeveloped natural gas leases in the area.
The group, along with a coalition of local elected officials, eventually convinced Sen. Bennet to seek permanent withdrawal of the area from future leasing in his CORE Act.
Bennet and others now want President Biden to use the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act to do just that.
“This action would ban new oil and gas leasing, as well as mining, on a landscape where community members, including farmers and ranchers, have come together to request protection,” the letter to Biden states.
“We also ask that you bring new protections to the areas of the CORE Act proposed for wilderness designation, mineral withdrawal and special management areas on the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests by using the upcoming U.S. Forest Service plan revisions or other administrative tools,” the letter requests.
The letter also urges Biden’s action under the Antiquities Act to designate Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range as what would become known as the “Camp Hale — Continental Divide National Monument.”
“The history of this area, including the role that it played in preparing the 10th Mountain Division for some of the most difficult moments of World War II, makes it the ideal candidate for a national monument designation,” the letter states. “Many of the veterans of the 10th Mountain Division returned to Colorado after the war to establish our state’s outdoor recreation economy by starting the ski areas that Colorado is known for, further establishing the role Camp Hale and its veterans have played for our state and nation.”
The letter goes on to state, “By taking these steps, you will be making sure that even more of Colorado’s open spaces will be preserved for future generations.”
In the meantime, Bennet, Hickenlooper and Neguse pledged to continue to try to pass the CORE Act, “… but ask for your help in the interim to offer administrative protections modeled after the bill.”
In addition to the Thompson Divide and Camp Hale protections, the CORE Act includes the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act and the Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act.