The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act passed a full floor vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, 227-182, with five Republicans voting yes and one Democrat voting no. The Colorado congressional delegation was split along party lines, with the four Democrats voting yes and three Republicans voting no.
The bill, which would conserve 400,000 acres of pubic lands in the state, now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it has an uncertain future, and President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to veto the bill if it manages to make its way out of the Senate.
The bill is sponsored in the House by U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Boulder-area Democrat whose district includes Vail. Here’s part of a press release from Neguse after the bill passed (it includes a quote from Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry):
The legislation is the first Colorado-specific legislation to get a vote from Congress this year and the first statewide Colorado wilderness legislation to pass the U.S. House of Representatives in over a decade.
“I’m proud to pass legislation on the House floor that was written by Coloradans to conserve the treasured public lands across our state. For decades, local leaders, ranchers, anglers, outdoor businesses and conservationists across our state have hammered out the designations to create the bill that we considered on the floor today, “Neguse said. “As representatives in Washington, we should be following the lead of our constituents and local communities, and that is exactly what this legislation proposes. This legislation will invest in the outdoor activities that are part of our way of live in Colorado, preserve our treasured public lands and designate the first-ever National Historic Landscape at Camp Hale to honor the legacy of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. As it moves to the Senate, I implore my colleagues to support it.”
“Colorado’s public lands and wild spaces are critical to the Colorado way of life and are why so many people love our great state,” said Governor Jared Polis.“The CORE Act will preserve hundreds of thousands of acres, preserving outdoor recreation opportunities for Coloradans and visitors alike. As a Congressman, I was happy to sponsor similar legislation and I’m thrilled to see this bill moving forward.”
“Eagle County applauds the passage of the CORE Act in the House of Representatives today. This important public lands bill includes the designation of one of the County’s Crown Jewels, Camp Hale, as a National Historic Landscape. The heroism of the Tenth Mountain Division and their contributions to the skiing world are memorialized in this Act,” said Chandler Henry. “The CORE Act also preserves important wildlife habitat and environment in Eagle and Summit Counties. We are excited about this national commitment to our wild spaces and our heritage. This bipartisan effort has included local input over many years and we are hopeful that this work will result in passage in the Senate as well.”
View Neguse’s remarks on the House floor discussing the legislation ahead of passage here.
And here’s part of a press release from Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who is sponsoring the bill in the upper chamber:
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (“CORE”) Act (H.R. 823), a significant step toward protecting approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities, and boosting the state’s outdoor economy:
“The CORE Act was developed by Coloradans and today the House of Representatives heard their voices loud and clear. For nearly a decade, county commissioners, businesses, bikers, hikers, sportsmen, and conservationists in communities across our state spent night after night working together to iron out their differences to protect some of our most cherished public lands. What they had in mind was something special for the next generation of Coloradans. And today’s vote brings us closer to making their bold vision for our state a reality.
“I’m grateful to Congressman Neguse for his leadership and tireless work to pass the CORE Act in the House. Now that the House has done its job, it’s time for the Senate to take up the CORE Act. Colorado has waited long enough.”
Last month, Bennet sent a letter to Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Joe Manchin requesting the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hold a hearing on the CORE Act.
Support for the CORE Act
The CORE Act enjoys the full support of seven affected counties, many cities and towns, local leaders, and a wide range of stakeholders. A list of support letters is available HERE, and a full list of statements of support from various stakeholders is available HERE.
“The people of Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork Valley municipalities are thrilled to see the CORE Act pass the U.S. House and we all look forward to having our representatives carry this popular momentum through the Senate. Our extended community has long awaited permanent protections for Thompson Divide through exhaustive and comprehensive negotiations and agreements with all the stakeholders. We strongly encourage the United States Senate to recognize and celebrate the critical importance of protecting Colorado’s unique public lands for all Americans by voting in support of the CORE Act.” – Pitkin County Commission Chair Greg Poschman
House and Senate Bill text, a fact sheet, frequently asked questions, updated maps, letters of support, and more are available at www.bennet.senate.gov/COREAct.
Here’s part of a press release from Conservation Colorado:
Conservation, recreation and wildlife groups across Colorado welcomed a vote in Congress today that helped move important public lands legislation from the U.S. House of Representatives on to the U.S. Senate. The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (CORE Act) is needed to safeguard more than 400,000 acres in the Centennial State and ensure future generations have access to the state’s wildest lands and historic areas, like Camp Hale.
Colorado Representatives Joe Neguse, Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jason Crow joined a bipartisan majority in a 227 – 182 vote for passage. Representatives Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck and Scott Tipton voted against, despite the recently released polling indicating that strong majorities of Rep. Tipton’s constituents support the measure and strong local support from counties and towns.
As the bill moves to the U.S. Senate, it is more important than ever that Colorado’s statewide elected officials stand together and support the CORE Act. Sen. Cory Gardner, who has not yet taken a position on this important Colorado legislation, should join Sen. Michael Bennet in sponsoring the bill.
The following are quotes from a number of organizations and stakeholders who have been working for decades to advance conservation efforts in Colorado, including protections for 400,000 acres in the San Juans, Thompson Divide, Continental Divide, Curecanti, and the historic WWII training grounds at Camp Hale:
“Coloradans love our lands and have been working for years to protect these popular, iconic and historic landscapes. Thank you to our environmental champions — Representatives Neguse, DeGette, Crow and Perlmutter — for advancing the CORE Act today. Senator Gardner should join Senator Bennet in supporting this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to safeguard nearly half a million acres of Colorado’s public lands.” — Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado
“Protecting Camp Hale and the surrounding area is way to honor generations of veterans, from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom. Our public lands and the freedoms they represent define our nation, and I fought to defend that. Today I continue that fight by working to preserve Camp Hale and I hope Senator Gardner will join me and my fellow veterans.” — Bradley Noone, 10th Mountain Division Veteran
And here’s a release from Trout Unlimited:
Today, Trout Unlimited celebrates the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act (CORE Act) passing through the U.S. House of Representatives and moving on to the U.S. Senate. This important legislation conserves more than 400,000 acres of public lands in the Centennial State, along with fish, wildlife and the traditional sportsmen’s values of Colorado’s Western Slope.
“Hunters and anglers across the state applaud the members of the House for passing this important legislation protecting our public lands and the vital fish and wildlife habitat they provide here in Colorado,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado public lands coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “The CORE Act balances public access to fishing, hunting and recreation in these special places with protection of pristine headwaters that support native trout populations. Following today’s vote, we look forward to working with the Colorado delegation to move this bill forward in the Senate.”
The four components of the CORE Act provide protection and improved access to public lands in western Colorado. It expands wilderness designations in the San Juan Mountains, increases fishing access and streamlines management of the Curecanti National Recreation Area and permanently protects the Thompson Divide from inappropriate oil and gas development. Lastly, it also establishes special management areas along the Continental Divide, including a first-of-its-kind National Historic Landscape honoring Colorado’s military legacy at Camp Hale where the 10th Mountain Division trained for winter combat in World War II.
Trout Unlimited members have long advocated for protection for these unique landscapes, including the Thompson Divide, where nearly half of the CORE Act’s protected lands provide a largely roadless refuge for numerous economically and ecologically important wildlife species, including native trout and large populations of elk and mule deer that require room to roam.
“Preserving wildlife connectivity and protecting our waters and lands is of utmost importance to sportsmen living in Colorado as well as those who travel here to take advantage of what these special areas offer,” Willoughby said. “Economic impacts from sportsmen are a big driver in Colorado, so ensuring more access and opportunities is critical to maintaining our recreation economy and the license revenue required by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for fish and wildlife management.”
Among the benefits of the CORE Act, the Curecanti Boundary Establishment Act promises to restore an additional 11.5 miles of public fishing access in the Gunnison River Basin due to an as-yet unfulfilled mitigation obligation from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation dating back to the creation of Blue Mesa Reservoir and the surrounding Aspinall Unit in the late 1960s. Additionally, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act will benefit the San Miguel, Uncompahgre, and Animas watersheds, protecting 2.5 miles of Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat, which currently occupy less than 10 percent of their historic range.
“TU deeply appreciates Representative Neguse’s efforts and the strong support of Chairman Grijalva for enabling its passage, said Willoughby. “It is a true testament to Colorado’s commitment to investing in our treasured public lands and outdoor recreation economy.”
And finally, a statement from The North Face:
“We broadly support thoughtful and community-driven bills that support outdoor recreation. The CORE Act represents this approach and creates valuable new opportunities for exploration, recreation and the related community and health benefits of time spent in Colorado’s great outdoors.” – Eric Raymond, Director of Advocacy, The North Face