Wilderness and Recreation Bill Doubles Down on Economic Importance of Conservation in Colorado

As Colorado welcomes the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, Representative Polis and Senator Bennet introduce bill to preserve the Continental Divide and Camp Hale

 

Proposed Tenmile Wilderness6-John Fielder

Proposed Tenmile Wilderness-John FielderProposed Spraddle Creek Wilderness1-John Fielder

 

*All photos by John Fielder

Denver, CO (January 24, 2018) – As Colorado makes its final preparations to welcome the largest outdoor sports expo and conference to the Centennial State, Representative Jared Polis and Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act to the applause of small business owners, veterans, sportsmen, mountain bikers, outdoor recreationists, musicians, artists, conservationists, and local elected officials.

The legislation would preserve 98,621 acres of the White River National Forest in Summit and Eagle counties as wilderness, recreation management areas, and wildlife conservation areas. It also would designate Camp Hale as America’s first National Historic Landscape.

“The Outdoor Retailer show left Utah for Colorado because of how much we value our protected public lands,” said Tom Mullen, a small business owner in Vail. “By preserving Camp Hale and the Continental Divide landscapes, we are offering locals and visitors alike more places to get outside and play.”

For nearly a decade, a diverse and large coalition of local stakeholders has been working to conserve the public lands in the Continental Divide region of central Colorado. After many community gatherings, meetings with elected officials, and several draft proposals, the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act reflects the collective interests of many different constituencies ranging from mountain bikers and veterans to small business owners and water users.

Dave Gorsuch, a fourth-generation Coloradan, rancher and businessman said, “Preserving our public lands like the Continental Divide and Camp Hale is about as American as you can get. You leave your politics behind when you walk into a wilderness area, race down a mountain side, or hunt your first elk. I urge Senator Gardner to protect our Western values and way of life and support the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act.”

The legislation would create a recreation management area that protects world-class mountain biking and other recreation opportunities in the Tenmile Mountains between the towns of Breckenridge and Frisco.

Dave Wiens, the Executive Director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association added, “The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act is a bike-friendly bill representing years of collaborative work between local and national mountain bike advocates and a broad group of partners. By working closely with Congressman Polis and Senator Bennet, we have a bill that successfully recognizes recreation alongside conservation, preserving mountain bike trails so present and future generations can appreciate these special areas. Colorado’s mountain bikers can be proud of the outcome presented in this legislation.”

The legislation was first introduced by Representative Jared Polis in 2014, but previous versions did not include protections for Camp Hale. Home of the WWII-era training camp of the storied 10th Mountain Division, the Camp Hale National Historic Landscape would preserve a slice of history from the Greatest Generation. Ski troopers learned the unique skills necessary for winter warfare, and many of the soldiers who trained at Camp Hale returned home and founded Colorado’s outdoor ski industry, including Vail, Aspen and others.

“Designating Camp Hale will pay homage to our veterans and the birth of our state’s booming outdoor industry,” said Bradley Noone, a U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division Veteran. “I want to thank Representative Polis and Senator Bennet for honoring World War II Veterans, small business owners, and the lands that we all enjoy. I hope that Senator Gardner co-sponsors this legislation that will benefit all Coloradans.”

Protecting lands on the White River National Forest will safeguard ecologically important, mid- and high-elevation areas that provide vital wildlife habitat for black bear, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, sage grouse, moose, lynx, wild turkey, and the rare wolverine. Specifically, the legislation will create two wildlife conservation areas to protect critical wildlife linkages and habitat near Loveland Pass and in the Williams Fork Mountains.

“Colorado’s high country attracts hunters and anglers from around the world who seek its solitude and backcountry. In addition to these public lands and waters which support robust populations of fish and wildlife, this legislation sustains our time-tested traditions of hunting and fishing for current and future generations,” added David Lien, Colorado Chapter Chair of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

The Act would provide important protection for key watersheds, helping to safeguard pristine drinking-water supplies for local communities and cities along the Front Range and Western Slope.

The Continental Divide coalition is urging Senator Cory Gardner to co-sponsor the legislation and is hopeful that Congress follows Congressman Polis and Senator Bennet’s lead and passes this bipartisan and sensible legislation.

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