Quentin Young

(Colorado Newsline) In a move that achieves an objective long sought by conservationists, President Joe Biden today signed a proclamation that establishes Camp Hale near Leadville as a national monument.

The Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, as it’s officially called, comprises 53,800 acres. Protection of Camp Hale was part of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy — or CORE — Act, which, championed by Rep. Joe Neguse of Lafayette, has repeatedly passed the U.S. House but has failed to pass the U.S. Senate.

During a visit to Camp Hale in August, top Democratic Colorado leaders and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack suggested executive action from Biden could be invoked to protect Camp Hale.

The White House says the proclamation represents the first time Biden has used the Antiquities Act to create a national monument.

Biden is due to visit Camp Hale today.

Camp Hale is the former base where 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained before heading to fight in World War II. The U.S. Army continued to use the location for winter training exercises until 1965. A White House statement described the significance of Camp Hale.

“These peaks and valleys forged the elite soldiers of the famed 10th Mountain Division … that helped liberate Europe in World War II,” the statement said. “The area lies within the ancestral homelands of the Ute Tribes, along the Continental Divide in north-central Colorado, and is treasured for its historical and spiritual significance, stunning geological features, abundant recreation opportunities, and rare wildlife and plants.”

The statement also mentions the site’s role in shaping outdoor recreation.

Neguse, in whose 2nd Congressional District Camp Hale sits, celebrated the monument announcement.

“For years we’ve worked to make this happen, and the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument is now a reality!” he tweeted.

“This designation will permanently protect Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range, the iconic site where the 10th Mountain Division trained to fight in World War II and later returned to found much of Colorado’s ski industry,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said in a statement. “With every passing year, there are fewer World War II veterans who trained at Camp Hale left to tell their story, which is why it is so important that we protect this site now.”

Not every Colorado official is pleased with the proclamation. Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt called it a “land grab.”

“Joe Biden came to Colorado today to unilaterally lock up hundreds of thousands of acres through the stroke of his pen and prevent Coloradans from using our public lands for activities that we want and need,” she said in a press release.

Biden is expected to be joined on his Colorado trip by Vilsack, Bennet, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, Gov. Jared Polis, Tribal leaders and other dignitaries.