Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act
Each year, outdoor recreation generates $28 billion in consumer spending, supports 229,000 direct jobs, and brings in two billion dollars in state and local tax revenues across Colorado. The outdoor industry is particularly important to the economic well-being of our mountain communities, where visitors from around the world come to enjoy world-class mountain biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, climbing, skiing, camping, and hunting.
The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Act, which is the fifth iteration of the bill, was introduced in January of 2018. The legislation supports the outdoor recreation economy by preserving our public lands. This bill was built in collaboration with hundreds of stakeholder groups and input from thousands of people over a nine year period.
- Wildlife and Recreation: The bill creates two new wildlife conservation areas totaling 11,668 acres. The Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area would protect Colorado’s only migration corridor over Interstate 70 for elk, bear, mule deer and other wildlife. The Williams Fork Wildlife Conservation Area would enhance the wildlife habitat for the Greater Sage-grouse and other species. The bill also creates a recreation management area in the Tenmile Range totaling 16,966 acres. This will protect access to world-class outdoor recreation—such as mountain biking, hiking, and hunting—and preserve wildlife habitat.
- Wilderness Areas: The bill creates three new wilderness areas in the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge, and Williams Fork Mountains, totaling 21,033 acres along the Continental Divide. It also expands three existing wilderness areas—Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak, and Holy Cross—totaling 20,196 acres. Input and support from community leaders in Eagle and Summit Counties led to the designation of these areas.
- Camp Hale National Historic Landscape: The bill designates 28,728 acres surrounding Camp Hale as the first-ever National Historic Landscape. This unprecedented designation speaks to the storied legacy of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Colorado and around the world. The 10th Mountain Division that trained at Camp Hale led our nation to victory in World War II, then went on to create the outdoor industry as we know it today. The National Historic Landscape designation would ensure the historic preservation of Camp Hale, secure ongoing recreational opportunities in the area, and protect ecological resources through continued cleanup and restoration.
- Other Land Management: The bill addresses management issues for three specific areas along the Continental Divide. It adjusts wilderness boundaries around the Trail River Ranch in Rocky Mountain National Park to ensure ongoing access to the property for youth and community education programs. It authorizes special use of the Bolts Ditch headgate in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area to ensure the town of Minturn, Colorado, can use its existing water rights to fill Bolts Lake. Lastly, it allows the Forest Service to acquire “the Wedge”—several parcels of land in Grand County—to protect wildlife habitat and the viewshed in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The legislation bill doesn’t close any motorized routes or access points currently open to the public, and makes boundary accommodations to meet the needs of all surrounding stakeholders – including the Colorado Department of Transportation, Xcel Energy, Climax Mines, Colorado Springs Water, Eagle River Water and Sanitation, Summit Fat Tire Society, and Vail Mountain Bike Association
Endorsing Organizations: Eagle County, Summit County, Town of Vail, Town of Breckenridge, Colorado Springs Utilities, Vail Resorts, Xcel Energy, Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort, Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Fishermen, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Access Fund, Conservation Colorado, People for Bikes, Public Land Solutions, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Outdoor Industry Association, Wilderness Workshop, The Wilderness Society, Vet Voices, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Sierra Club,, Sierra Club – Rocky Mountain Chapter, The Wilderness Society, The Wilderness Society – Colorado Chapter, League of Conservation Voters, Pew Charitable Trusts, Alpine Accents, Frisco Liquors Inc., Summit Travel, Anew You , Moose, Jaw Restaurant, Frisco Wine Merchant, House of Signs, Inc., Deli Belly’s, Frisco Fun and Formal, Smokn’ Bra Little Beans Boutique, The Jumping Tree, Abbey’s Coffee, Art Supply Breck, Boutique Bling, Timeless Collections, b’s Modern Mountain Apothecary, Bella Design and Planning, Breckenridge Bead Gallery, Big City Blues Clothing, Flourish, Vertical Runner, Slopestyle, The Mountain Goat Clothing Company, Columbine Bakery, Haute Route Gear and Apparel, Skea Ltd., Bloomingvails, Gorsuch Ltd., Ptarmigan Sports, Crazy Mountain Brewery, Minick Construction, Vail Valley Anglers, Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic and Pharmacy, Mary Lynn Gillaspie Photography, Nina’s Flowers, Ville de Luxe Boutique, The Walnut Gallery, By Chance Shoppe, Gifts at Cooper’s Corner, Found Underground Consignments, Gifted Hands Gallery, Little Horse Books and Vintage, The Book Cellar, SoFlo Glass LLC., Faith Davis Massage and Yoga, Trident Booksellers and Café, Nomad Bead Merchants, Two Hands Paperie, Rocky Mountain Anglers, Bedell and Co., Colorado Ocean Coalition, Justins LLC., Ripstop Repairs, Spork and Ladle, LLC., Eco-Products, Powder7.com, Vision Ridge Partners, High Country Dogs
Supportive Stakeholder Quotes:
- “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.” -Dave Gorsuch, a fourth‐generation Coloradan, rancher and businessman
- “The Outdoor Retailer show left Utah for Colorado because of how much we value our protected public lands. By preserving Camp Hale and the Continental Divide landscapes, we are offering locals and visitors alike more places to get outside and play.” -Tom Mullen, a small business owner in Vail
- “Copper Mountain is proud of its record of sustainability, stewardship of the public lands it operates on, and array of recreational and educational opportunities that it provides. The new protections proposed by the Continental Divide bill complement our efforts by protecting the public land values and uses that local Coloradans, from the West Slope and the Front Range, and visitors from across America and the globe enjoy. We appreciate that the bill was developed collaboratively by a broad coalition of public land users, state and local government officials, and local and regional business owners. We thank you for your support and urge you to work diligently to pass this important legislation.” -Gary Rodgers, President & General Manager of Copper Mountain Resort
- “The Act recognizes the extraordinary natural resources available to our citizens in central Colorado. As prepared, the Act will conserve, protect and enhance our beautiful landscapes for current and future generations.” -Alan Henceroth, Chief Operating Officer of Arapahoe Basin
- “Designating Camp Hale will pay homage to our veterans and the birth of our state’s booming outdoor industry. 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.” -Bradley Noone, a U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division Veteran
- “As a Tenth Mountain Division Veteran’s descendant, and Vice President of the Tenth Mountain Division Foundation, I appreciate this support as we continue to work to promote and amplify the Tenth Mountain Division story in Colorado. This is a giant step towards implementing our newly‐established interpretive plan for Camp Hale.” -Nancy Kramer, Vice President, Tenth Mountain Division Foundation
- “As veterans, we fought to protect our country, including our precious public lands. We support protecting and funding the area in and around Camp Hale so that future generations may learn its significant history and enjoy its natural beauty.” -Garett Reppenhagen, a U.S. Army Kosovo and Iraq War veteran
- “We applaud this bill for balancing the needs of wildlife and watershed protection with recreational and other uses of the forest, and that our water providers, conservation groups, recreational groups, and businesses have been included in this collaborative legislative process. The addition of the Camp Hale National Historic Landscape will help to preserve and highlight this incredible piece of history and the legacy of the Tenth Mountain Division in Eagle County.” -Eagle County Board of Commissioners
- "Summit County supports this effort to protect our public lands, for our citizens and for Colorado's future success. Summit County receives millions of visitors every year, and our federally protected public lands, including designated Wilderness areas, contribute significantly to the local economy and quality of life for our visitors and citizens alike. We appreciate that these areas in particular were crafted to manage not only for wildlife habitat and recreation, but also to meet the needs of water providers, fire management, and potential future infrastructure needs.” -Dan Gibbs, Summit County Commissioner
- “We appreciate this continued support of the citizens and visitors of Grand County through this legislation to allow the National Park Service to continue educational programming at Trail River Ranch, at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.” -Merrit Linke, Grand County Commissioner
- “The town of Breckenridge depends on our outdoor recreation economy and we support efforts to protect our natural landscapes. We thank Senator Bennet and Representative Polis for their efforts with this bill.” -Eric Mamula, Mayor of Breckenridge
- “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.” -David Lien, Colorado Chapter Chair of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
- “Colorado’s high country attracts hunters and anglers from around the world who seek the solitude and personal challenge found only in backcountry landscapes like those that would be conserved via the Continental Divide Act. In addition to these wild public lands and waters, which support robust populations of fish and wildlife, this legislation sustains our heritage, family traditions and the inheritance of future generations. We thank Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Jared Polis for supporting our Western way of life.” -John Gale, conservation director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
- “Protected public lands help provide clean water and safeguard such lands from future development. Clean water is essential for the healthy fisheries that our guests from all over need to enjoy the outdoors.” -Joe Macy, Eagle County Resident and Fishing Guide
- “This proposal has gained widespread support because it was shaped by multiple user groups. It preserves access and keeps critical corridors open to traditional users. The process that led to this proposal is a good model for creating wilderness and successful public lands protection.” -Jamie Malin, president of the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association
- “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.” -Dave Wiens, International Mountain Bicycling Association
- “This bill would protect 96,000 acres in the country’s busiest national forest. Throughout the inclusive process to develop this legislation, thousands of Coloradans have spoken up to protect this wild place and preserve it for hiking, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, and world‐class mountain biking. Senator Bennet and Representative Polis are showing, once again, their incredible commitment and leadership on behalf of Coloradans who treasure their public lands. All of us want to ensure that the outdoor recreation industry continues to grow, that our wild places are preserved for our grandchildren, and that the natural heritage that defines Colorado remains for all to explore and enjoy. Protecting the area around Camp Hale honors those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who returned to Colorado to help the state become one of the greatest places to play outside." -Scott Braden, Wilderness & Public Lands Advocate, Conservation Colorado
- “The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act is a testament to the collaboration and hard work of the broad and diverse stakeholders who helped develop the land protection vision for this treasured region. Protecting these public lands is critical to support the economies of local communities, to maintain the clean water that Coloradans from the West Slope to the Front Range depend on, to provide the outdoor recreation that we cherish, and to honor our unique and important history. Senator Bennet and Rep. Polis’ leadership on critical conservation issues is to be commended. Now the work begins to move this legislation forward. We are hoping Senator Gardner will also recognize the enormous support for this legislation and help move this bill across the finish line.” -Scott Miller, Senior Regional Director, The Wilderness Society
More Information on Wilderness:
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Blaine Miller-McFeeley in the Washington Office or Nissa Erickson in the Frisco Office.