President Biden used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate his first new national monument since taking office, the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument in Colorado. The monument covers more than 53,000 acres, including the stunning Tenmile Range. During his visit, President Biden also kickstarted an environmental analysis and public comment period for withdrawing 225,000 acres in the nearby Thompson Divide area from potential mining or drilling.
Camp Hale, located near Leadville along the Continental Divide, is where 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained for battle during World War II. Colorado’s governor and members of the state’s congressional delegation formally asked Biden to designate the monument, which was included in legislation called the CORE Act that aimed to protect 400,000 acres in the state that passed the U.S. House last year. Local leaders in Colorado have also urged Biden to protect Camp Hale as a national monument for several decades.
Momentum is building for other Antiquities Act designations as well. Communities in southern Nevada, west Texas, and northern California are calling on Biden to pick up his pen and protect the proposed Avi Kwa Ame and Castner Range national monuments, in addition to expanding the existing Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. All three proposals enjoy strong local support.
New analyses of media and public opinion conducted by the Center for Western Priorities and the Center for American Progress find that executive conservation action is wildly popular, cuts through the public’s distrust of Washington, is accessible to broad and bipartisan audiences, and garners incredibly positive media coverage. These studies also suggest that further use of executive conservation action by President Biden would be well-received by the voting public.
The Antiquities Act is a key tool in reaching Biden’s America the Beautiful goal of protecting 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030. It’s also a way for President Biden to prove he’s listening to Western communities. A Center for Western Priorities poll of voters in four Western swing states—Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico—found that 77% are more favorable to an elected official who wants to designate new national parks and monuments.
It’s time for Biden to build on the momentum from the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument designation and use the Antiquities Act to protect more locally-led conservation efforts across the country.