Udall floats Camp Hale bill — a safer play than balanced budget bid

Sen. Mark Udall late last week introduced a bill with deep Colorado historical roots that should have a little better chance of passing than the balanced-budget amendment he co-sponsored earlier in the week.

His Camp Hale Study Act of 2011, co-sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet, would have the U.S. Department of the Interior study making the Camp Hale area between Leadville and Vail a national historic district and part of the National Park system.

Camp Hale is a national forest area where the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division trained ski troopers to fight in Italy and Alaska during World War II. It was later used by the CIA to train Tibetan freedom fighters resisting the Chinese takeover of Tibet in the 1950s and 60s.

Many of the 10th Mountain Division ski troopers who fought the Nazis in Italy and the Japanese in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands went on the found the nation’s ski industry in the 1950s and 60s upon their return to the United States.

Udall, an avid mountain climber with affinity for all things Himalayan (his mother served in the Peace Corps in Nepal), introduced a similar bill recognizing Camp Hale’s historical importance in the last session of Congress, only to see it die with the failed omnibus public lands bill.

Earlier this month Udall made headlines by becoming one of the first Democrats in years to push for a balanced budget amendment, considered by many a non-starter and a nod to growing Tea Party sentiments ahead of the 2012 presidential election and Udall’s own re-election attempt in 2014. Camp Hale is a better bet for actually someday seeing the legislative light of day.

Here’s Udall’s statement on the Camp Hale bill:

“Camp Hale is an important part of our state’s proud national defense legacy, and it deserves to be recognized and protected. As a training site, Camp Hale has been home to U.S. soldiers who later fought the Nazis in Italy, and Tibetan freedom fighters who fought against occupation — it has played an important part in our country’s shared pursuits of freedom. Designating Camp Hale as a national historic district will preserve its connection to the past, as well as honor the people who trained there.”

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