Lien: Sportsmen’s top 10 reasons to pass Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act (column)
During June, the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers held its 10th annual Rendezvous near Leadville. We spent the weekend camping, hiking, fishing and enjoying some of our nation’s wild public lands estate. We also visited nearby Camp Hale, remembering those who have sacrificed so much to preserve and protect our great democracy and its unequaled public lands heritage.
Introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jared Polis, the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act would preserve public lands habitat important to sustaining healthy populations of big game and other wildlife. And as a former Air Force officer, I’m particularly pleased that this legislation designates the legendary Camp Hale as America’s first National Historic Landscape.
Tucked in a high mountain valley north of Leadville in Eagle County, Camp Hale was the home base for the renowned World War II 10th Mountain Division. From November 1942 through June 1944, Camp Hale housed some 15,000 troops who learned to rock climb, perform military maneuvers on skis and endure a brutal climate in preparation for mountain warfare. This bill honors their legacy, and support is widespread:
1. During the 2017 Colorado General Assembly Sen. Kerry Donovan introduced, and the Senate passed, SM17-003: “Memorializing congress to support the designation of Camp Hale as the nation’s first National Historic Landscape to preserve its rich military history.”
2. On May 2, 2018, a coalition of nearly 100 Colorado businesses sent a letter to Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner seeking his support for the bill.
3. The bill doesn’t close any motorized access points and accommodates water, electrical, transportation and even mining infrastructure. It’s backed by Eagle County, the town of Vail, Vail Resorts and many other groups.
4. Wilderness encompasses less than 3 percent of the landmass of the lower 48 states.
5. Only 8 percent of the National Forest acreage in Colorado lies beyond one mile of a road (a mere 4 percent for Bureau of Land Management lands), and there are enough Forest Service roads in the state to go from the Kansas border to Utah and back, 17 times.
6. In Colorado, 12 of the 15 most-hunted game management units have more than 100,000 acres of roadless wilderness. Build roads or trails in these areas, and the elk migrations are hindered and the mule deer populations suffer. That means less hunting opportunity.
7. As renowned Colorado bowhunter, David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot), said: “The three-part formula for assuring a rich elk hunting future … could hardly be simpler or more in need of our acknowledgment and help right now. Those three essential elements are: habitat, habitat, and habitat.” (“The Future of Elk Hunting,” David Petersen, Traditional Bowhunter magazine: December/January 2013, p. 69)
8. In the words of my friend, Salida resident Bill Sustrich (a U.S. Navy/World War II veteran): “In the simplest terms, without suitable habitat we will have no game; without game, we will have no hunting; without hunting, a precious heritage of our past will be lost forever.”
9. Petersen adds: “For me, it was always super simple … if you want to hunt, first you have to have animals to hunt. And if you want animals, first they’ve got to have habitat to live in. So, if you’re not trying to protect habitat and improve it and increase it, then you’re working against yourself as a hunter.”
10. And in the words of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers founder Mike Beagle (a former U.S. Army field artillery officer): “Think about what we leave for our children. That’s enough motivation for me. Let’s make it happen.” (“Nothing breeds success like success,” Mike Beagle, Backcountry Journal: Spring 2007, p. 1)
Beagle would also surely agree that perhaps the most important reason to support this legislation is honoring our World War II veterans. In 141 days of combat, the 10th Mountain Division saw 992 men killed and 4,100 wounded in some of the war’s toughest fighting. This bill preserves an important part of their great legacy.
“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 Rep. Polis and Sen. Bennet for honoring World War II veterans … and the lands that we all enjoy. I hope that Sen. Gardner co-sponsors this legislation that will benefit all Coloradans.”
David Lien is a former Air Force officer and chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He’s the author of “Hunting for Experience: Tales of Hunting & Habitat Conservation” and during 2014 was recognized by Field & Stream as a “Hero of Conservation.”