Introduced by Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-3), a bill protecting close to 400,000 acres in Colorado passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act is the culmination of years of negotiations with numerous stakeholders and combines four separate bills introduced in Congress.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—which sets policies and programs for the Department of Defense—and will go to the Senate.
“The CORE Act was carefully-crafted by Coloradans over the last decade, and they deserve to see this bill—which would conserve treasured public lands in our state and make major investments in our outdoor recreation economy—considered by the Senate,” said Neguse in a press release. “The CORE Act would create the first-of-its-kind National Historic Landscape at Camp Hale to honor the 10th Mountain Army Division and the legacy of Sandy Treat, a local WWII veteran, with an overlook named in his honor. As a result, the bill’s inclusion in the NDAA makes perfect sense, follows past precedent and will give the Senate another chance to take up this locally-driven bill and deliver for Colorado.”
The four previously introduced bills were the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, and the Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act.
Details of bill
In addition to the designation of Camp Hale as a National Historic Landscape, according to the press release from Bennett, the bill would allocate “73,000 acres as new wilderness areas, and nearly 80,000 acres for new recreation and conservation management areas that preserve existing outdoor uses.”
The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act, initially introduced by Bennett and then-Rep. Jared Polis (D), protects areas in the White River National Forest along Colorado’s Continental Divide. It will create the Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area, a migration corridor over Interstate 70 for wildlife, and the Williams Fork Wildlife Conservation Area, enhancing wildlife habitat for the greater sage-grouse and other species.
Camp Hale was the training grounds for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division in World War II and later created the skiing industry as we know it today.
“I am thrilled to join Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse in support of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act,” said Colorado Gov. Polis (D) in a press release. “As a congressman, I was proud to champion the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act with Senator Bennet. Today’s CORE Act integrates the legislation into a robust public lands package that will protect the Colorado economy and preserve the Colorado environment for generations to come.”
As a result of 10 years of collaboration with local leaders, businesses, and ranchers in San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act would protect nearly 61,000 acres in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. The bill also withdraws mineral development in the Naturita Canyon outside of the town of Norwood.
Additional mineral and oil provisions are in the CORE Act, which was part of the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act and designates 200,000 acres in the area from development while “preserving existing private property rights for leaseholders and landowners. It also creates a program to lease excess methane from nearby coal mines, supporting the local economy and addressing climate change,” based on a request from Gunnison and Delta counties, landowners, and oil and gas companies.
“The Thompson Divide Coalition has been working for over a decade to protect the long-term viability of grazing, hunting and recreation that have supported and been enjoyed by many generations of my family and other families on the public lands of the Thompson Divide,” said Judy Fox-Perry, a rancher and member of the Thompson Divide Coalition, in a prepared statement to the Aspen Daily News.
Finally, the act formally establishes the boundaries for the Curecanti National Recreation Area. The area was created in 1965, but no formal boundaries were established. It will also expand public access to fishing in the basin area.
The Colorado Livestock Association told WLJ they do not have a position on the legislation and do not intend to have one in the future. — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor