Act would honor World War II veterans who helped build outdoor recreation economy
Vail, Colo. (December 6, 2021) – As Congress prepares to vote on its annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a group of Colorado veteran organizations sent a letter urging the inclusion of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act in the must-pass legislation. The bill was reintroduced earlier this year by Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Representative Joe Neguse, and would, among other things, designate Camp Hale – home of the WWII training camp of the famed 10th Mountain Division – as America’s first National Historic Landscape.
The letter states,
“We, the undersigned organizations, write on behalf of America’s veterans who stand to gain much-deserved recognition and important benefits in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) now being considered in Congress. In addition to ensuring our country is safe and secure, the NDAA includes the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, a 400,000-acre public lands protection initiative that is Colorado-born, fully vetted, widely supported, and has been passed in the House four times.”
The NDAA offers such a way to provide this recognition, as the House and Senate reconcile their versions of the bill; the last major public lands bill for Colorado was passed in the 2015 NDAA to protect the Hermosa Creek wilderness and watershed.
“Wilderness Therapy has proven to help veterans adjust to and enjoy civilian life by gaining tools for enhancing mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health,” said Paul Anderson, founder and executive director of Huts for Vets. “The fresh air, majestic mountains, and endless adventures help wounded souls recover and heal. And today, we are seeing more and more people turn to nature as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Including the CORE Act in the National Defense Authorization Act would honor veterans while also ensuring that a no-cost and proven therapy will always be available.”
It is more clear than ever how important Colorado’s public lands and waters are to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coloradans have always known that outdoor recreation and rural communities are the backbone of the state’s economy, and the pandemic has made that even clearer. The NDAA passage recognizes and honors the connection people have to the natural world during difficult times.
“Our public lands, including Camp Hale and the surrounding areas, define our country, and are what I fought to defend,” said Mary Kasynski from Vet Voice Foundation. “Adding the CORE Act to the National Defense Authorization Act is fitting because it will honor generations of veterans. World War II veterans were part of the greatest generation, and I hope we can honor our remaining brothers and sisters by making the CORE Act the law of the land.”
Public lands and waters, like those within the CORE Act, are on the front lines of defense against climate change by providing healthy air, clean drinking water, and sequestering carbon. In fact, the Defense Department Climate Risk Analysis concluded that climate change has “significant implications for U.S. national security and defense.”
Joe Mornini, the Founder of Team River Runner added, “World War II veterans trained at Camp Hale, defended our freedoms abroad, and then returned home to create Colorado’s world-renowned ski industry. Including the CORE Act in the National Defense Authorization Act will communicate a symbol of trust, and a challenge to be better in life to our veterans. Protecting our public lands in the CORE Act is long overdue, and Camp Hale deserves to be our first National Historical Landscape.”
Protected public lands are critically important to veterans. After returning from deployments, many veterans find peace, strength, and resilience in Colorado’s mountains, rivers, and forests. Veterans find camaraderie with fellow veterans and reconnect with their families and friends on public lands. Whether it is hiking, camping, rafting, hunting, or fishing, Colorado’s public lands have proven to be a priceless asset for America’s veterans.
“The CORE Act combines important protections for the wild places that Americans yearn for, while also paying tribute to the courageous 10th Mountain Ski Troopers who established mountain warfare and forged today’s modern ski industry. Passing the CORE Act as part of the NDAA provides a legacy for future generations of protected lands and honors the pioneering spirit of America,” added Ricki Sherlin from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) 10th Mountain Chapter.
The letter concludes with,
“Time is running out to honor the few 10th Mountain veterans from WWII who are still with us. It’s time to acknowledge them and their contributions by preserving Camp Hale as our country’s first National Historic Landscape.”
You can view the letter and signers here.