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Colorado Democrats push President Biden to implement facets of CORE Act

Bill has passed U.S. House several times but stalled in Senate
Bennet, Polis introduce legislation to protect, create public lands along Continental Divide
Posted at 11:57 AM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 13:57:56-04

DENVER — Colorado’s U.S. senators, along with Rep. Joe Neguse and Gov. Jared Polis, are pushing for President Joe Biden to implement facets of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act (CORE Act) that has on several occasions stalled in the U.S. Senate.

The CORE Act’s parameters have been a staple of Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s agenda for years and have been supported by Rep. Neguse since he took office, and by Gov. Polis both as a congressman and governor. Sen. Hickenlooper signed on to cosponsor Bennet’s bill when he took office in 2021.

It aims to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado and add tens of thousands of new wilderness and recreation and conservation management areas, with special protections for Camp Hale, areas of the White River National Forest, and protections for areas in the San Juan Mountains and Thompson Divide.

Bennet was successful in passing the Great American Outdoors Act he cosponsored with former Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., in 2020, which was signed by then-President Donald Trump. But he and other Democrats have continued their push to pass the CORE Act.

The bill has already passed the U.S. House on several occasions – in October 2019, again in 2020 and 2021 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, and again in February 2021 as part of a public lands package.

But it has languished in the Senate, most recently failing to get a favorable report out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May.

After Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Camp Hale last week with Bennet, Hickenlooper, Neguse and Polis — and dodged a question about protecting Colorado’s public lands, as the Colorado Times Recorder reported — the group sent a letter Friday to President Biden asking him to consider executive actions to implement parts of the CORE Act if the Senate will not act.

“Regrettably, progress in Congress has stalled despite strong support in Colorado,” the four Democratic lawmakers wrote. “The time has come to take the next step in protecting the key landscapes within the CORE Act and we need your help.”

The group called for Biden to use the Antiquities Act to designate Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division trained for World War II, and the Tenmile Range as a new national monument called the Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument. The group said the role Camp Hale played in preparing soldiers for mountainous battle during the war “makes it the ideal candidate for a national monument designation.”

The group, along with others from both parties, was successful in getting Amache designated as a National Historic Site earlier this year.

They are also asking the president to direct his administration to implement a Federal Lands Policy and Management Act mineral withdrawal on roughly 220,000 acres of land on the Thompson Divide in Pitkin, Garfield and Mesa counties, which would prohibit new oil and gas and mineral mining and leasing.

The four, as well as county commissioners from Eagle, San Miguel, San Juan, Gunnison, Summit, Pitkin and Ouray counties, also want the president to ask his administration for a wilderness recommendation for pending U.S. Forest Service plan revisions for the Sheep Mountain Area and a prohibition on mining and oil and gas leasing in the Naturita Canyon Area proposal, which commissioners said would protect the areas while the CORE Act is still making its way through Congress.

The group also wants a fishing access easement on the Gunnison River above Blue Mesa Reservoir and further protections for areas of the Curecanti National Recreation Area near Gunnison.

Numerous outdoor and conservation groups support the CORE Act, as well as cities across the mountains and Western Slope. The Senate and House versions of the bill are cosponsored by all of Colorado’s Democratic members of Congress. Bennet, Neguse and Polis are all up for re-election this November.

“By taking these steps, you will be making sure that even more of Colorado’s open spaces will be preserved for future generations,” Bennet, Hickenlooper, Polis and Neguse wrote to Biden Friday. “We will continue our fight to pass the CORE Act to deliver permanent conservation for the areas featured in the legislation but ask for your help in the interim to offer administrative protections modeled after the bill.”