OPINION: Applause for ‘National Historic Landscape’

By Jace Woodrum

Yesterday, January 24, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Jared Polis introduced the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act to permanently protect the natural beauty, outdoor recreation, historic resources, and wildlife habitat of the White River National Forest area, including Camp Hale as the first-ever National Historic Landscape.

“This bill would protect 96,000 acres in the country’s busiest national forest,” said Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “Throughout the inclusive process to develop this legislation, thousands of Coloradans have spoken up to protect this wild place and preserve it for hiking, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, and world-class mountain biking.”

The bill will protect portions of the White River National Forest in Colorado’s Summit and Eagle counties. The region is home to iconic vistas and mountain towns that attract visitors from metro Denver and around the world. These wild places are at risk from overuse and development that could threaten the area’s clean water, wildlife, and booming outdoor recreation economy.

“Senator Bennet and Representative Polis are showing, once again, their incredible commitment and leadership on behalf of Coloradans who treasure their public lands. All of us want to ensure that the outdoor recreation industry continues to grow, that our wild places are preserved for our grandchildren, and that the natural heritage that defines Colorado remains for all to explore and enjoy,” continued Braden.

The Act would create 20,000 acres of new wilderness areas in the Williams Fork Mountains, Tenmile Range, and Hoosier Ridge, and it would expand the existing Holy Cross, Eagles Nest, and Ptarmigan Peak wilderness areas by another 20,000 acres.

In addition, nearly 30,000 acres of public lands surrounding Camp Hale will be protected as the country’s first National Historic Landscape. In 1945, Colorado’s challenging landscapes helped to train the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who went on to fight in Italy’s mountains in World War II. Former members of the 10th Mountain Division went on to help found approximately 60 ski resorts around the country, including Vail, Aspen, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and Steamboat. A flood of surplus skis and other outdoor equipment helped launch the modern outdoor recreation industry.

“Protecting the area around Camp Hale honors those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who returned to Colorado to help the state become one of the greatest places to play outside,” said Braden.

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