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Biden, in Colorado, designates first new national monument

US President Joe Biden has designated a training camp for World War II soldiers the first new national monument of his presidency.

October 13, 2022
By COLLEEN LONG and SEUNG MIN KIM
13 October 2022

President Joe Biden has designated the first national monument of his administration at Camp Hale, a World War II-era training site in this state, as he called for protecting “treasured lands” that tell the story of America.

The announcement at Camp Hale is a boost to Colorado’s senior Democratic senator, Michael Bennet, who has for years advocated for the designation and is in a competitive re-election bid this November. The location is an alpine training site where US soldiers prepared for battles in the Italian Alps during World War II.

Remnants of the deteriorating field house at Camp Hale near Vail, Colorado. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Many troops who trained at Camp Hale returned to Colorado after the war and helped create the state’s lucrative ski industry. While most national monuments protect extraordinary natural landscapes, there are at least 12 other military sites designated as national monuments by other presidents.

“When you think of the natural beauty of Colorado and the history of our nation, you’ll find it here,” Biden said.

The Biden administration also announced Wednesday it is pausing new mining and oil and gas drilling on 225,000 acres of public land in the Thompson Divide, a natural gas-rich area not far from Camp Hale. The move is separate from the monument designation.

Citing a need to protect wildlife, the Interior Department said it is initiating a review of a proposed 20-year withdrawal of the area from new leasing. Preexisting natural gas leases that account for less than 1% of active federal leases in Colorado won’t be affected.

US President Joe Biden signs the Camp Hale designation.

Bennet stood alongside Biden to tout the designation.

“You have excellent taste, Mr President, for your administration’s first national monument designation,” Bennet said Wednesday.

“Your designation means more Americans will come to appreciate the extraordinary history of this place – a history that goes back to before when Colorado was a state.”

Meanwhile, Bennet’s opponent, Republican Joe O’Dea, dismissed Biden’s visit as “a political stunt.”

Biden’s western trip

The president’s stop in Colorado Wednesday is part of a three-state swing out West this week. Later Wednesday, Biden heads to California, where he will hold a pair of events promoting two of his most significant legislative achievements and headline a fundraiser for the House Democrats’ campaign arm.

Finally, Biden will stop in Oregon, where Democrats’ grip on the governor’s mansion in Salem is being threatened by an unaffiliated candidate who has captured double-digit support in polling, giving an opening for a Republican to win the race outright in November. Early voting starts in Oregon and Colorado next week and is already underway in California.

He is notably staying away from states where his presence could hurt Democrats; on this trip he’s skipping Nevada and Arizona, where incumbent Democratic senators are battling tough reelection bids.

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