WASHGINTON- On Wednesday, a major piece of environmental legislation written by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy or CORE Act, received a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, a major step in the legislation becoming law.

The CORE Act would protect over 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado. Notably for the Western Slope, the bill protects over 200,000 acres of land on the Thompson Divide near Glenwood Springs and Carbondale from future oil and natural gas development.

But the bill also allows opportunities for the energy industry to thrive. Bennet highlights this to show how the bill is conducive to a wide array of industry in Colorado, not strictly limited to the outdoor recreation industry. For example, the bill creates a methane leasing opportunity based on a request from Gunnison County and Delta County to create a program to lease and generate energy from excess methane in existing or abandoned coal mines in the North Fork Valley. Bennet says the effects of this bill would be seen fairly quickly if signed into law.

“The protections will go into effect almost immediately. And what it does is it makes sure it preserves existing uses on our public lands,” Bennet said. He adds that working with the energy industry has been a huge part of writing this bill.

“As people worked together, people thought of new ideas to build support, and allowing the capturing of fugitive methane in the North Fork Valley is a really good example of that,” Bennet said. “There’s silver mine outside of Ouray that supports the bill. You don’t think about mining companies supporting public lands bills. But it’s a reflection of how broad the support is.”

The CORE Act, which has already passed the House of Representatives both as a stand-alone piece of legislation and being included in the House’s version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, has Bennet feeling optimistic the bill could pass the Senate by the end of the year if the Senate adopts the bill into its version of the National Defense Authorization Act.