Bennet Joins Biden for Signing of Proclamation Designating Camp Hale-Continental Divide as Administration’s First National Monument

Administration Also Announced New Protections for Thompson Divide

Denver — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined President Joe Biden at Camp Hale as he signed the proclamation designating Camp Hale-Continental Divide as the administration’s first national monument. In addition, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Interior (DOI) announced additional protections for the Thompson Divide. For years, Bennet has led the effort to protect Camp Hale, the Tenmile Range, the Thompson Divide, and other iconic landscapes across the state with his Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE Act).

The Camp Hale–Continental Divide National Monument will commemorate important aspects of Colorado's and America's military, Tribal, and natural history. During World War II, Camp Hale served as the training ground for the 10th Mountain Division, the Army’s first and only mountain infantry division that played a decisive role in overcoming Axis forces in Northern Italy. The area also lies within the ancestral and spiritually significant homelands of the Ute Tribes and is home to treasured geological features, recreational opportunities, and rare wildlife and plants. The Forest Service will manage the 53,804-acre national monument. 

DOI and USDA also proposed a 20-year withdrawal of the Thompson Divide area. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service jointly submitted the withdrawal application to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Haaland’s acceptance of the petition and publication of a notice in the Federal Register will initiate a two-year segregation that will prohibit new mining claims and new Federal mineral leases on approximately 225,000 acres in the Thompson Divide area. During this time, the BLM and Forest Service will seek public comment, and conduct an environmental analysis of the impacts of a 20-year withdrawal.

Read more about today’s actions to protect Camp Hale, the Tenmile Range, and the Thompson Divide HERE

“This is a historic day for Colorado,” said Bennet in his remarks at Camp Hale. “With this designation, Mr. President, you offer [the service of the veterans of the 10th Mountain Division] the dignity of public remembrance. You safeguard this place and its history, not only for them, but for America. And you ensure that, years from now, we can bring our grandkids here and tell them the story of the 10th Mountain Division and their contributions — not only to Colorado, but to humanity. And for that, Mr. President, Colorado will be forever grateful.”

Bennet has worked for over a decade to grow Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy and protect over 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establishing new wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas, and safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities.

Bennet first introduced the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act in 2013 following overwhelming public support. His proposal struck a middle ground approach to protect land and respect existing leases in the treasured natural area. Bennet later reintroduced this legislation with revisions based on extensive discussions with local communities, elected officials, and oil and gas companies.

Bennet has maintained the preservation and protection of Camp Hale-Continental Divide as a top priority, reflecting the voices of community and Tribal leaders, sportsmen, ranchers, veterans, and local towns who have advocated for this action. Bennet first introduced the Continental Divide and Preserve Camp Hale Legacy Act in 2018 to establish permanent protections for nearly 100,000 acres of wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas in the White River National Forest along Colorado's Continental Divide.

In 2019, Bennet introduced the CORE Act with the support of counties, cities, towns, local leaders, conservation groups, and a wide range of Coloradan businesses. The CORE Act combined four Colorado public lands proposals, building on longstanding efforts to protect public lands by establishing new wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas and including a first-ever National Historic Landscape designation for Camp Hale and mining protections for the Thompson Divide.

In January 2021, Bennet reintroduced the CORE Act in the Senate. The legislation has successfully passed the U.S. House of Representatives five times. Bennet continued his advocacy to get a hearing on the legislation in the U.S. Senate, and in May 2022, Bennet welcomed the Senate’s first-ever committee vote on the CORE Act.

This year, Bennet led U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on a tour of Camp Hale and met with supporters of the CORE Act. During the visit, Secretary Vilsack committed to discussing urgent protections for these landscapes with President Biden.

Following this visit, Bennet urged President Joe Biden to use his Presidential authorities, including the Antiquities Act, to protect the landscapes included in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act. Bennet has delivered dozens and dozens of letters from Coloradans to the President in support of the designation. 

This event was livestreamed, and can be viewed HERE.

Bennet’s full remarks as delivered at Camp Hale are available below:

Good afternoon everybody.

This is a historic day for Colorado. And I want to thank Senator Hickenlooper, Governor Polis, Congressman Neguse, Secretary Vilsack — thank you for coming back again and again and again.

And I also would like give a round of applause for my staff for the work they've done over the years — and so many of you that are here for your leadership making it possible

And Mr. President, welcome to Camp Hale. Welcome to Colorado.

If I say so myself, and perhaps speaking for myself, you have excellent taste for your administration’s first national monument designation.

Your designation means more Americans will come to appreciate the extraordinary history of this place — a history that goes back to before Colorado was a state.

According to the Ute people, their ancestors lived here “since the beginning of time.” The Ute came to this place each year after the winter snow melted to hunt and gather plants for food and medicine.  

This designation honors their enduring connection to the land, and their rightful role to help manage it.

It also honors the singular legacy, as we’ve heard, of the 10th Mountain Division.

A number of years ago, I came here to learn from 10th Mountain veterans about their experience at Camp Hale.

They joined 15,000 recruits who arrived here by train starting in 1942 — not just from Colorado, but all across the country. 

Some had never seen snow before. Others had never been in the mountains. But among them were the best skiers and mountaineers and mountain climbers in America, and they learned from each other.

Over the next two years, they trained relentlessly. In 10 feet of snow. In temperatures 50 degrees below zero. 

Two days ago, Mr. President, the son of a 10th Mountain vet told me his dad said this mountain was “the coldest son of a bitch” he ever climbed.

The conditions were so tough, some called it “Camp Hell.” But it forged them into the world’s most capable mountain soldiers. 

And they were just in time. By early 1945, the Allies had hit a wall in Northern Italy, where German soldiers held the high ground in the Apennine Mountains.

Every Allied effort to break the German Line had failed — until the 10th Mountain arrived.

At Riva Ridge, 10th Mountain soldiers climbed more than 1,800 feet straight up a vertical cliff with 90 pound packs and rifles in the dead of night. At dawn, they surprised the Germans who believed their position was unassailable.

Not for the 10th Mountain Division. They seized it, they scaled Mount Belvedere, and punched a hole in the German line. 

And over the next 10 weeks, they pushed north with the Allies and helped clear the way for Victory in Europe.

All of this came at a terrible cost. Over 114 days of combat, more than 4,000 soldiers were wounded. Nearly 1,000 lost their lives.

And as was mentioned, they weren’t done. After the war, a number of 10th Mountain veterans returned to Colorado to build our ski and outdoor industries.

Theirs is an extraordinary story — a deeply Colorado story, I think Mr. President — of service, vision, entrepreneurship, and an abiding connection to the outdoors and our public lands.

And generations later, young veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan took up the fight to memorialize what the 10th Mountain Division did here. 

I remember sitting with them just up the road in Leadville. 

One after another of these veterans told me about the power of these mountains and our public lands and this place to help heal their own wounds of war, more than any medication or any treatment — and to find connection, not only to nature, but to the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division. 

Those veterans join so many Coloradans who’ve spent years working to protect this special place — many are here today, Mr. President – local officials, sportsmen, environmental groups, and many others.

This proclamation reflects their vision and their compromises, hammered out over literally hundreds of meetings, year after year.

And the result is a victory for Colorado’s environment, our $10 billion outdoor recreation economy, and the legacy of public lands we owe the next generation — a legacy we’ve burnished over the past 10 years in our state, protecting places like Hermosa Creek, and Chimney Rock, and Browns Canyon, working with so many of you here.

Let me end by acknowledging those who are no longer here — the 10th Mountain veterans who gave their lives in the war, or who have passed on since. 

With this designation, Mr. President, you offer their service the dignity of public remembrance. 

You safeguard this place and its history, not only for them, but for America. 

And you ensure that, years from now, we can bring our grandkids here and tell them the story of the 10th Mountain Division and their contributions — not only to Colorado, but to humanity.

And for that, Mr. President, Colorado will be forever grateful. 

Thank you.