President Joe Biden established a new national monument on Wednesday, encompassing 53,000-acres across the heart of the central Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
It’s the first time Biden has used the Antiquities Act, which allows the president to establish national monuments to protect natural and cultural landmarks.
Dubbed Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, the area was home to a military base where 17,000 troops from the U.S. Army’s legendary 10th Mountain Division trained.
“The men and women who served and trained in this beautiful but punishing landscape made sacrifices for our country and made their mark on the history of the free world,” said Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It also has cultural significance, and for thousands of years was home to the Parianuche and Uncompahgre bands of the Ute Indian tribe.
Today, it’s a popular destination for hiking, skiing and camping.
The Camp Hale region was previously managed by the Forest Service, however a coalition of Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribal members, ranchers, conservation and outdoor recreation advocates, business owners, and even descendants of the 10th Mountain Division urged Biden to act, signing on to a letter penned by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat.
Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper, Gov. Jared Polis and Rep. Joe Neguse also voiced their support for the monument.
“I can’t think of a better choice,” Bennet posted on social media Wednesday. “This wouldn’t have happened without the tireless work of a broad coalition of Coloradans who have fought for these protections for years.”
Absent from that coalition is Colorado GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert, who blasted the move on Wednesday, calling it an attempt to “appease Green New Deal extremists.”
“Rather than working on real issues like reducing inflation and improving the economy, 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,” Boebert said in a statement, referring to Biden’s announcement to also protect the 225,000-acre Thompson Divide in western Colorado from mining.
Since it was first established in 1906, 18 presidents have used the Antiquities Act — that includes Presidents Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton.
It’s been used to protect swaths of land ranging from the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty. It’s also the subject of a current lawsuit in Utah, which argues the Biden administration’s restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments is unlawful.
Signed on by a number of powerful Utah politicians including Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, the suit alleges the declaration is “an abuse of the president’s authority under the Monuments and Antiquities Act.”