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CO Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Protect Continental Divide, Camp Hale

The proposed Tenmile Wilderness is part of legislation to protect lands on the Continental Divide. (John Fielder)
The proposed Tenmile Wilderness is part of legislation to protect lands on the Continental Divide. (John Fielder)
January 25, 2018

DENVER — A new bill introduced in both houses of Congress on Wednesday would further protect close to 100,000 acres of the White River National Forest in Summit and Eagle counties.

The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Act would create three new wilderness areas for the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge and the Williams Fork Mountains.

Josh Lautenberg, who owns a real estate company in Vail, said it's important to preserve the character of the area.

"What people love about Colorado is the open space,” Lautenberg said. “The majority of people that move to this area predominantly move because of the lifestyle, and beautiful lands and skiing and outdoor sports and activities. And all that, of course, depends on keeping our lands wild and beautiful."

The bill also would establish the country's first-ever National Historic Landscape in the area surrounding Camp Hale, where the Famed Tenth Mountain Division trained in World War II. It would also add acreage to the Eagle's Nest, Holy Cross and Ptarmigan Peak wilderness areas.

Opponents say they worry the designations could stifle some kinds of commercial development.

The bill was timed to coincide with the opening of the Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show, which moved to Denver after many years in Salt Lake City, because of anti-public land sentiment expressed by many lawmakers in Utah.

The bill's sponsors are Rep. Jared Polis and Sen. Michael Bennet, who have brought up similar bills in the past. Bennet said this bill was written with input from the people who know the land best.

"We heard directly from the communities that ski, hike, mountain bike and hunt on these lands,” Bennet said. “And they count on public lands to drive their economies."

The bill also would create a special management area and recreational management areas that protect access for mountain biking in the Tenmile Mountains. And it creates important wildlife corridors near Loveland Pass and in the Williams Fork Mountains.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trust.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CO