A Monumental Win for Veterans, Wildlife, & Hunters
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Captain’s Blog: December 2022
As a veteran, I always appreciate the recognition of those who have served, and as a kind of eco-warrior, skier and climber who values our protected public lands, I am thrilled with the creation of our nation’s newest national monument – the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, right here in Colorado.
The 10th Mountain Division was stationed at Camp Hale in the heart of the Rockies near Vail and Leadville during WWII. The countryside was rugged, the living conditions rough, making it a perfect place to train a mountain warfare unit in the United States Army. The unit served with distinction, especially in Italy during the Battle of Riva Ridge.
The Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument is an honor to all who served there. And, it protects key habitat near the Continental Divide to ensure the area will not be fragmented by resource extraction. The Tenmile Range on the Continental Divide splits major Eastern and Western watersheds, and the ridges are dotted with fourteen thousand-foot peaks. The Monument lies within the ancestral homelands of the Ute Tribes, and is greatly valued for its cultural and spiritual significance. This monument designation provides these special Colorado public lands with additional protections, safeguarding important ecosystems and a culturally significant landscape, while increasing recreational access.
Our flights over the years with politicians, from local commissioners and public figures to state congressmen and US senators, and hordes of press and concerned citizens highlighted just how rugged, remote and pristine much of this landscape is. During this campaign, we heard so many stories of the hardships that existed while training at such high altitude, and soldiers’ remarkable resilience in how they embraced these challenges to build wilderness, backcountry travel, and technical rock climbing skills. The day before Biden came to Camp Hale and made the designation, I was grateful to conduct a flight with veterans, Vail Daily, Aspen Journalism, The Colorado Sun, and public officials. It was moving to see the sacrifice of the 10th Mountain Division vets, and all veterans, be appreciated in a public land protection, especially here. This area is an integral part of the CORE (Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy) Act. The Act, championed by Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper, still has to make its way into legislation, which is a major hurdle in today’s political environment, but the Camp Hale proclamation shows we are heading in the right direction towards tackling climate change, keeping our air and water healthy and sequestering carbon.
In addition, the President proposed a 20-year mineral withdrawal at the Thompson Divide, a beloved landscape just south of our home-base in Aspen, where we have spent decades flying to keep oil and gas drilling out of a number of pristine watersheds and preserve excellent hunting opportunities and historical ranching. The proposal will prohibit new mining claims and the issuance of new federal mineral leases on approximately 225,000 acres for the next 20 years.
Again, we recognize President Biden’s courage in wading through the political swamp and creating this National Monument and his steps to protect the Thompson Divide.
I hope you have enjoyed this latest Captain’s Blog, and as a reward for finishing this eloquent prose, we invite you to participate in Colorado Gives Day, the state’s largest day of giving, where something called the Incentive Fund will magnify your donation and help us enormously, and so many other worthy organizations.
When you give to EcoFlight on ColoradoGives.org, EcoFlight also receives a percentage of the $1.6 million Incentive Fund. For example, if EcoFlight receives 10% of the total money raised for Colorado Gives Day, then we also receive 10% of the total Incentive Fund.