Camp Hale-Continental Divide is the proposed site of a national monument encompassing the Camp Hale Historic Site and the area surrounding Colorado’s Continental Divide.
As a former military base, the Army’s 10th Mountain Division trained at Camp Hale during World War II. After training at 9,200 feet, the soldiers of the 10th Division were sent to the Apennine Mountains in Italy, where they fought the Battle of Riva Ridge, forcing the Axis forces to retreat. Throughout our state’s history, the Continental Divide has influenced Colorado’s political and cultural landscape and plays a prominent role in providing water, the most precious resource in the West, South- western United States.
On the western slope of the Continental Divide, the watershed feeds the Colorado River, which provides water for 40 million people. In fact, much of our nation’s water comes from Colorado’s Continental Divide, which is also the source of the mighty Arkansas and Rio Grande rivers. On the eastern slope of the Continental Divide, every raindrop, spring and snowflake feeds a watershed that quenches the thirsty and populated Front Range – and many other communities between Colorado and the Gulf of Mexico. As the western United States faces its most severe mega-drought in 1,200 years, we must ensure strong protection of our freshwater resources.
The Continental Divide crosses the White River National Forest, placing this area under the management of the US Forest Service. The national forest designation, however, does not necessarily protect the land from damaging industrial activities, such as oil and gas drilling, mining, or grazing.
Designating Camp Hale as a national monument would prevent new leases for industrial activities that threaten our state’s water quality.
Industrial activities can have serious impacts on Colorado’s water quality. In 2016, oil and gas drilling equipment contaminated water wells in Colorado communities. In 2015, 3 million gallons of toxic orange water spilled into Colorado’s Animas River from an abandoned mine site. That same year, water pollution killed 15,000 fish in Colorado’s Republican River when manure from a feedlot overflowed into the river during a rainstorm.
Designating Camp Hale as a national monument would prevent new leases for industrial activities that threaten our state’s water quality. Declaring the area a national monument would also move the Biden administration closer to its commitment to conserve 30% of the country’s land and waters by 2030. Additionally, President Joe Biden can declare the area a national monument via the Antiquities Act instead. that bipartisan. legislation through Congress.
For the sake of our water, the legacy of our World War II veterans, and the administration’s 30×30 commitment, the President should designate Camp Hale-Continental Divide as a national monument.
Editor’s note: Sammy Herdman is a campaign associate for Environment Colorado. This opinion piece first appeared on Colorado Newsline, part of States Newsroom, a grant-supported network of news outlets and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Quentin Young with any questions: [email protected]. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.