Bennet, Hickenlooper, Neguse Introduce CORE Act to Protect Over 400,000 Acres of Public Land and Strengthen Economy

Colorado News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and John Hickenlooper (D) and U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse (D) announced their introduction of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act. The bill would grow our outdoor recreation economy and protect over 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establishing new wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas, and safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities.

Last Congress, Bennet and Neguse introduced the comprehensive CORE Act for the first time in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, following years of work on the ground in Colorado to develop, draft, and negotiate the four individual titles in the bill. In October 2019, Neguse secured passage of the legislation through the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The CORE Act was later added to the House version of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, but it was not included in the final measure. In November 2020, Bennet secured a hearing on the bill in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and submitted written testimony in support of the bill. The CORE Act is supported by a broad coalition of counties, cities, towns, local leaders, conservation groups, sportsmen, and a wide range of outdoor businesses. 

“For the last decade, I’ve worked with Coloradans as they designed and drafted the four titles of the CORE Act, a piece of legislation that is representative of what we know to be true in Colorado – protecting our public lands and strengthening our economy go hand in hand,” said Bennet. “From a first-of-its-kind National Historic Landscape designation for Camp Hale — which embodies the spirit of Colorado — to protections for our iconic San Juan Mountains, the CORE Act was crafted night after night by Coloradans who came together to do something special for the next generation. Our state has waited long enough. Congressman Neguse and I are excited to be joined by Senator Hickenlooper in this effort – and I’m looking forward to pushing the CORE Act across the finish line.”

 “I’m so pleased to reintroduce the CORE Act today, a bill that was crafted by Coloradans for Colorado,” said Neguse. “For over a decade, local communities across our state have thoughtfully collaborated on this legislation that would preserve some of Colorado’s most precious public lands, boost our state’s outdoor recreation economy and honor Colorado’s military legacy. Countless Coloradans have contributed their voices to the creation of this bill, and it’s time for Washington to take notice, and enact this measure into law. Last Congress, we were able to secure a bipartisan vote for the legislation as it passed the House, this year our coalition in Congress includes the support of both of Colorado’s Senators. I’m excited to get this done for the people of Colorado, for our public lands, our climate and our state’s economy.”

“Communities across our state have worked for ten years to craft this historic effort to protect public lands,” said Hickenlooper. “The CORE Act is key to ensuring that future Coloradans inherit both a thriving outdoor recreation economy and pristine outdoor spaces. I look forward to it crossing the finish line this Congress.”

Background

The CORE Act combines four previously introduced Colorado public land bills, which have been in development over the past decade: 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. 

Of the land protected by the bill, about 73,000 acres are designated as new wilderness, and nearly 80,000 acres are designated as new recreation and conservation management areas that preserve existing outdoor uses, such as hiking and mountain biking. The bill also includes a first-of-its-kind designation for Camp Hale as a National Historic Landscape, to honor World War II veterans and Colorado’s military legacy, and prohibits new oil and gas development in areas important to ranchers and sportsmen in the Thompson Divide.

Resources

The following CORE Act resources are available below:

See frequently asked questions, maps, letters of support, and more at www.bennet.senate.gov/COREAct.

Support

“Protecting Colorado’s public lands is critical to protect our unique way of life.  The CORE Act is the result of collaboration and will benefit our ranchers, sportsmen, small businesses, and outdoor recreation economy. When I served in Congress I was proud to lead this important legislation and am thrilled Rep. Neguse, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper are carrying this torch forward,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis. 

“Gunnison County has worked for years on the Curecanti and Thompson Divide elements of the CORE Act. We have fought long and hard for the CORE Act because our constituents believe in these sensible public lands protections that are vital to our economy, our values and the enduring opportunity these lands will provide for future generations,” said Jonathan Houck, Gunnison County Commissioner. “For many years, we have worked with diverse stakeholders to develop sensible landscape scale protective measures that match the values of our communities and our desire to see these productive and pristine landscapes thoughtfully protected. We are thankful to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership and persistence on the CORE Act.”

“The CORE Act could now be referred to as the Colorado Outdoor “Recovery” Act for its potential to become an effective part of the pandemic recovery we all face together. Americans, at higher numbers than ever before, flocked to our public lands during the summer of 2020 to seek fresh air, adventure, healing, and connection,” said Hilary Cooper, San Miguel County Commissioner. “Our public lands are one of America’s most valued treasures and the lands protected in the CORE Act are some of Colorado’s greatest jewels, enriching our local communities, enhancing our clean air and clean water, and educating all ages about our cultural and natural heritage. My deep appreciation goes to Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper, who has been a supporter of the CORE Act in his previous role as Colorado’s Governor because he recognized the value of the CORE Act to Colorado.” 

“Many years of collaborative stakeholder input, across all sectors of Ouray County’s economy, have delivered us to this moment. The CORE Act is supported by recreation, mining, ranching, and many other interests because it helps ensure that our most treasured landscapes will gain the protections they deserve,” said Ben Tisdel, Ouray County Commissioner. “The CORE Act is therefore very much in line with Ouray County’s core principles, and we send a huge thank you to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for persevering and bringing us to this historic moment.”   

“I am grateful to see the CORE Act will be reintroduced by Senator Bennet, our new Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper, and Congressman Neguse,” said Greg Poschman, Pitkin County Commissioner. “Our revered 10th Mountain Division Veterans of WWII––who are in their late 90s or early 100s––simply cannot wait any longer to see Camp Hale designated as a National Historic Landscape. It’s time to get The CORE Act done, for our veterans, for our economy, and for the benefit of the growing number of Americans who seek outdoor recreation as relief from the pandemic. This is our time to insure these public lands for future generations of Americans.”

“Now, more than ever, it’s time for the Senate to pass the CORE Act.  We applaud the CORE Act for balancing the needs of wildlife and watershed protections with recreational and other uses of the forest,” said Kathy Chandler Henry, Eagle County Commissioner. “This collaborative legislative process has involved our water providers, conservation groups, recreational groups, and businesses.  This important bill strengthens Colorado’s recreation economy and is supported by stakeholders throughout the state. The Camp Hale National Historic Landscape especially helps to preserve and highlight an incredible piece of history and the legacy of the Tenth Mountain Division in Eagle County.  Eagle County thanks Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their stewardship of public lands; our grandchildren will be grateful for these treasured additions in Western Colorado.”

“After all these years, we certainly hope the CORE Act can finally pass Congress and be signed into law,” said Scott Fetchenier, San Juan County Commissioner. “This looks like our best chance in years to pass this bill now that we have Senator Hickenlooper joining with Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse to get this bill over the finish line. This type of legislation is just what we need to protect our public lands, bolster our recreation based economy, and help prevent climate change.” 

“Summit County is excited to see the CORE Act moving forward with the full support of our Congressional delegation Senator Bennet, Senator Hickenlooper and Congressman Neguse who we thank for their leadership and advocacy for our public lands. Public lands are the foundation of our economy in our community and drive our recreation economy. It is long past time for Congress to pass this bill, and we hope to see it signed into law soon,” said Elizabeth Lawrence, Summit County Commissioner.

“As a rancher who relies on the Thompson Divide for our summer grazing, I am hoping for the passage of the CORE Act. It will bring needed protection to this area which is so important to myself and fellow ranchers and also for the entire community, who utilizes these amazing lands for hunting and year-round recreation,” said Bill Fales, Cold Mountain Ranch, Rancher at Thompson Divide. “The pandemic makes protection even more vital as our USFS lands are seeing unprecedented levels of use by the public. Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse have been fantastic in advancing this bill. Hopefully, with Senator Hickenlooper’s support, we can finally give this area the protection it so richly deserves.”

“In the veteran community, more and more veterans are turning to nature as a form of medication in lieu of traditional medicine. They are finding that when they spend a little time forest bathing, their minds and bodies feel better and they are able to cope with their post combat service more easily,” said Mike Greenwood, 10th Mtn Division Veteran. “Here in Colorado, the land we are seeking to protect through the CORE Act is a treatment center for many of the veterans who call Colorado home, and many that come here to find peace after their service in our peaks and valleys. Our public lands, and the land included in the CORE Act, is where they once again regain purpose in life, please don’t take this away from them. As a Colorado veteran, and more specifically a 10th Mountain Division veteran, I am challenging our lawmakers to make the right decision and protect this land. Camp Hale is a beacon of hope and sacred ground to our veterans, and it’s preservation and protection is long overdue. This is an opportunity for Congress to say thank you to the veterans that gave so much to our country, our state, and of course, our freedom.  Congress should not hesitate; it should get behind the CORE Act and let it pass this year in their honor.”

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