Effort to designate WWII site and preserve 400,000 acres of Colorado land finds more support in Congress


A new senator, a new Congress and a new administration all added to a warmer welcome for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (CORE) at a key Senate subcommittee hearing .

The CORE law had its first Senate hearing in 2021 on Wednesday in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The bill would protect 400,000 acres of public land in the Continental Divide, the Thompson Division, the San Juan Mountains and the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

It includes 73,000 acres of new wilderness, creates new conservation management and recreation areas, and establishes a one-of-a-kind National Historic Landscape designation for Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division trained. during the Second World War.

Hart Van Denburg / CPR News
Winter at the historic Camp Hale site near Tennessee Pass, where soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II.

In the closing days of the last Congress, the CORE Act faced a tough climb in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democratic Senator Michael Bennet has found a clearer path now that Democrats are in charge.

To begin with, he was allowed to testify in favor of his bill in subcommittee, unlike the last time.

Bennet told the committee that the bill was drafted by Coloradans “on the ground, in boardrooms, on kitchen tables and at trailheads” across the state.

“Every provision of this bill reflects a thoughtful collaboration between county commissioners, businesses, breeders, sportsmen and environmentalists who have spent day in and day out working together to iron out their differences,” he said. . “They negotiated compromises, they adjusted the boundaries and changed the designations until the CORE law reflected their common priorities.”

Support is stronger for conservation efforts at this congress

This time around, CORE also gets a boost from the other Colorado senator, fellow Democrat John Hickenlooper, who sits on the committee and has joined as sponsor of the bill.

It is a change from former Senator Cory Gardner. When in office, the Republican said he was not blocking the bill, but he did not support it either. During his campaign against Gardner, Hickenlooper vowed to pass CORE.

Hickenlooper said he spoke with dozens of bill supporters before coming to the hearing and had never seen this level of pride in a bill.

“Big and substantial changes have been made to the program over the 10 long years of work, but what they have done is something that is deeply appreciated by the community that made it,” said Hickenlooper.

His questions focused on local support for the provisions of the bill.

The Dillon Pinnacles at the Curecanti National Recreation Area near Gunnison on Wednesday February 24, 2021.

Another big difference this time around is that the White House and the federal agencies that would oversee much of the land – the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management – have come out in favor of the bill.

Nada Culver, deputy director of policy and programs at BLM, said the CORE Act “aligns with the administration’s climate and conservation goals.”

The bill affects areas across the state and the hearing included witnesses who spoke to many of them.

Chris French, deputy chief of the National Forest System, said the service was excited about the opportunities that Camp Hale’s historic landscape designation would provide. He said they would contact existing users, outfitters and the general public “to ensure that recreational uses can continue. [and] can spread in areas.

The Biden administration announced its support for the measure this spring just before the House passed CORE ACt as part of a larger set of public lands. The Trump administration had spoken out against the bill.

The San Juan Citizens Alliance has been pushing for the San Juan Mountain designations for over 12 years now. Mark Pearson, executive director of the group, said the bill had been “comprehensively reviewed by stakeholders across the San Juans.”

“We hope the Senate acts this year, now that the two Colorado senators are co-sponsors of the CORE Act,” he said.

While Bennet and Hickenlooper have pointed out strong local support for the bill on the ground, there is still a high-level local opposed to the measure: the congressman from the 3rd Congressional District.

Boebert opposes the proposal

GOP Representative Lauren Boebert voted against CORE in the House, just as her predecessor Scott Tipton did. Much of the land affected by the bill is in her district and she said she was never consulted about it.

She described the bill as a “partisan land grab promoted by big city Democrats.”

“While locking down land may sound good for the swamp, it doesn’t work for the people who live there,” she said after the hearing. The bill is supported by several groups, including all commissioners from all counties with land in the bill.

The CORE Act was introduced in the last Congress, and the four areas that make up the bill predate itself and even its current sponsor in the House, Democratic Representative Joe Neguse.

Neguse, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, has been advancing the bill in the House since arriving in Washington, DC. He is delighted that the Senate is moving forward with the bill. “The CORE Act invests in the best of Colorado and preserves our precious public lands while strengthening our economy through major investments in outdoor recreation,” he said.


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