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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, fighting fires is very serious business in my home State of Colorado. Just a few months ago, we experienced the most expensive fire in our history--the Fourmile Fire, near Boulder. This fire destroyed more than 150 homes and burned over 6,000 acres.

We could not have stopped this fire without the dedicated efforts of hundreds of public servants, including volunteer firefighters from local fire districts. These individuals saved lives and property, often risking their own lives. That is, in part, why I believe we should do everything we can to help these fire districts and the volunteers who serve them.

One fire district involved in the Fourmile Fire--the Sugar Loaf Fire District--lost 17 homes in the fire. The Sugar Loaf Fire District is critical to protecting thousands of Coloradans, but instead of being able to focus on fighting fires this District has been wrapped up trying to resolve a land issue with the Forest Service for many years now. It is a very simple land exchange to make sure that the Fire District owns the land under two of its three fire stations.

The Fire District has occupied and operated the fire stations on these properties for nearly 40 years. If they can secure ownership, the lands will continue to be used as sites for fire stations and training. The Fire District is willing to trade the property it owns, an undeveloped inholding in Forest Service land, for the property under the stations. This is a simple and fair exchange that will serve the public good and help protect the local area from growing wildfire threats.

The Fire District has made a strong, persistent, and good faith effort to acquire the land under the stations through administrative means by working with the Forest Service. Furthermore, the Fire District has demonstrated its sincere commitment to this project by expending its monetary resources and the time of its staff to satisfy the requirements set forth by the Forest Service.

However, those efforts have not succeeded and it has become evident that legislation is required to resolve the situation.

To help facilitate this land exchange, I am introducing the Sugar Loaf Fire Station Land Exchange Act of 2011 today. This language is the same as what passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the last Congress.

Under the bill, the land exchange will proceed if the Fire District offers to convey acceptable title to a specified parcel of land amounting to about 5.17 acres. This land resides between the communities of Boulder and Nederland in an unincorporated part of Boulder County within the boundaries of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. In return, the land--about 5.08 acres--where the two fire stations are located will be transferred to the Fire District.

The lands transferred to the Federal Government will become part of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest and managed accordingly.

This is a relatively minor bill but one that is important to the Sugar Loaf Fire District and the people it serves. As public lands bills pile up in Congress because of ideological obstruction, this fire district is being forced into wasting time and money trying to resolve an otherwise commonsense and technical public lands fix. I think this bill deserves enactment without unnecessary delay.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, today I am introducing the Camp Hale Study Act of 2011, which would direct the Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility and suitability of establishing Camp Hale, near Leadville, CO, as a national historic district. Camp Hale is an important part of our Nation's proud national defense legacy, and it deserves to be recognized and protected.

This bill concerns an important military legacy from the World War II and Cold War eras. Camp Hale, located in the mountains of central Colorado, was a training facility for combat in high alpine and mountainous conditions. Principally, it was a training venue for the Army's 10th Mountain Division and other elements of the U.S. Armed Forces. The geography of the area was ideal for winter and high-altitude training, with steep mountains surrounding a level valley suitable for housing and other facilities. The facility itself was located in Eagle County along the Eagle River, and its training boundary included lands in Eagle, Summit, Lake, and Pitkin Counties.

In addition to the 10th Mountain Division, the 38th Regimental Combat Team, 99th Infantry Battalion, and soldiers from Fort Carson were trained at Camp Hale from 1942 to 1965. Throughout this time, the Army tested a variety of weapons and equipment at Camp Hale.

Between 1956 and 1965, the camp was also used by the Central Intelligence Agency as a secret center for training Tibetan refugees in guerilla warfare to resist the Chinese occupation of their mountainous country. Just last year, at my urging, the Forest Service put in place a plaque honoring these Tibetan Freedom Fighters. I joined many of those brave Tibetans, their CIA trainers, and their families in a moving ceremony to honor those who trained at Camp Hale.

In July 1965, Camp Hale was deactivated, and in 1966, control of the lands was returned to the Forest Service. Today the site is part of the White River and San Isabel National Forests. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to clean up potentially hazardous munitions left over from weapons testing at the site, particularly in the East Fork.

Camp Hale was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, but this bill would direct the Secretary of the Interior to complete a special resource study of Camp Hale to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating Camp Hale as a separate unit of the National Park System. That would include an analysis of the significance of Camp Hale in relation to the defense of our Nation during World War II and the Cold War, including the use of Camp Hale for training of the 10th Mountain Division and for training by the Central Intelligence Agency of Tibetan refugees seeking to resist the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

I have worked with Representative Lamborn on this bill since he first introduced it in the House in the 110th Congress, when I proudly cosponsored it. I introduced this bill in the Senate in the last Congress and shepherded it through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. However, because of opposition from a few Senators to all public lands bills, we could not pass this bipartisan bill on the Senate floor.

Camp Hale should be recognized for the role it played in our country's national security. The people who trained there are proud of their accomplishments, and I am proud to join Representative Lamborn in supporting this legislation. I am confident that we will have more success in passing this legislation in this Congress.

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