Bonowski: Why conservatives should support the CORE Act
Special to the Daily
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act was recently reintroduced in the House of Representatives as part of a package of public land and rivers bills. In case you are unfamiliar, the CORE Act would protect 400,000 acres of Colorado public lands, lands that are not only vital to this state’s outdoor recreation economy, but also rich with the history of both our state and our nation.
These lands encompass the breathtaking San Juan Mountains, portions of the Continental Divide and the Thompson Divide, the sparkling Curecanti reservoirs, and the historic World War II training grounds at Camp Hale. These natural and historical landscapes are intrinsic to preserving our heritage, they are part of who we are, they are why we call Colorado home, and they represent the America that our men and women in uniform have always fought to protect.
Therefore, it is especially fitting that this legislation, if passed in the Senate and signed into law by the president, will establish Camp Hale as our country’s first national historic landscape.
When one thinks of America’s military history, places like Valley Forge and Gettysburg often spring to mind. Camp Hale deserves an honored place in our hearts and minds as well. Home to the 10th Mountain Division, Camp Hale played a crucial role in our victory over Hitler’s Germany in World War II. Its training camps, during their operational peak, housed 15,000 American soldiers training for combat.
With our freedoms — and the fate of the entire world — hanging in the balance, these high mountain training camps were essential.
Since World War II, soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division Infantry have participated in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope, Operation Uphold Democracy, as well as the more recent Operation Iraqi Freedom. For the past 20 years, the 10th Mountain Division has been the most deployed unit across the entire United States military, and their tremendous courage in the face of the enemy has inspired Americans across the country to continue to enlist to defend our nation.
In honoring the continued determination of America’s veterans and active-duty military, it is only fitting that we preserve and maintain these camps to honor and show our gratitude to the soldiers who trained there.
This first-ever National Historic Landscape designation would preserve over 28,000 acres that surround Camp Hale’s historic legacy, while also maintaining existing recreational opportunities, and protecting our natural resources.
Also worth pointing out, is that it was veterans of Camp Hale who originally established Colorado’s thriving skiing and outdoor recreation industry — an economic sector that brings millions of visitors each year to the very places the CORE Act will protect.
The U.S. Department of Commerce found that in 2019, the outdoor recreation industry contributed $12.2 billion to Colorado’s overall economy and supported about 150,000 local jobs.
The CORE Act is a genuinely conservative piece of legislation that deserves broad bipartisan support. Not only will it preserve and elevate public awareness about the heroic legacy of Camp Hale, it will safeguard and enhance Colorado’s economic prosperity.
What could be more conservative than conserving those places that are most essential to our past, our present, and our future? It’s time for Congress to pass this bill and protect our history and our future.
Steve Bonowski is a member of the Board of Directors for Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for conservation and environmental stewardship. He lives in Lakewood.