What’s next for CORE Act? Vail elected officials issue support, fire chief urges town to lobby for less wilderness | VailDaily.com
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What’s next for CORE Act? Vail elected officials issue support, fire chief urges town to lobby for less wilderness

Spraddle Creek area creates a bone of contention

From left, Mike Greenwood, Sen. Michael Bennet and Craig Caulder tour Camp Hale in February of 2020 to promote the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which would designate the former World War II-era military training camp in Eagle County as the first-ever National Historic Landscape
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

The Vail Town Council has drafted a letter to Sen. Michael Bennet asking to be included among the towns that support the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.

The town of Vail also drafted a similar letter in 2019, but in speaking on behalf of the CORE Act in 2021, Sen. Bennet made repeated references to 12 cities and towns which support the CORE Act, a list which does not include Vail.

The CORE Act was not included in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed Congress in December, but town officials felt it was important to send the letter nonetheless. The letter is dated Dec. 21, 2021.



A spokesperson from Bennet’s office said the senator will keep looking for any opportunity to get the CORE Act passed, and in the future Vail will be included among Bennet’s list of towns that support the legislation.

Vail’s 2021 letter differs from its 2019 letter in its reference to the part of the CORE Act which has been contentious in Vail — the expansion of the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area into the Spraddle Creek area of Vail.



“We note that with the increasing climate change and wildfire danger in our community, the Town of Vail has invested heavily in considerable wildfire mitigation planning and on the ground projects over the past decade,” the letter reads. “The Vail community values the ability to continue to address these wildfire concerns, in and around wilderness areas adjacent to our community, particularly in the Spraddle Creek area where new wilderness is being proposed through the CORE Act. A smooth and quick process of approvals in the case of fire suppression needs, and proactive wildfire mitigation projects in this area will be critical to maintain the safety of the town’s residents, visitors and property, as well as the recreational opportunities, watershed health and water quality, wildlife habitat and natural resources.”

Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak addresses the Vail Town Council via Zoom on Dec. 21, 2021. On the wooded slope in the background photo, homes in Vail’s Spraddle Creek neighborhood can be seen.
Courtesy image

Addressing the Vail Town Council on Dec. 21, Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak said council should consider lobbying Congress to change the part of the CORE Act which expands wilderness into the Spraddle Creek area.

“There are some concerns with our future ability to implement wildfire mitigation programs and projects in wilderness areas,” Novak said. “Certainly, that’s been largely what has slowed down the current planning process for the East Vail/Booth Creek project.”

The East Vail/Booth Creek wildfire mitigation project targets a 4,400-acre area, some of which is in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Proposed work includes prescribed burning, manual pruning and chainsaw work, and mechanical logging on slopes of less than 40% grade in areas that is not wilderness.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse meet at the Coon Hill trailhead on the west side of the Eisenhower Tunnel in Dillon on Sept. 4, 2020, to discuss the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.
Liz Copan / Studio Copan

CORE Act proponent Susie Kincade also spoke to the Town Council, touting the benefits of conifer trees to the environment for their ability to sequester carbon, and wilderness protection for its impact on watershed protection. Kincade said she supports the prescribed burning proposed in the East Vail/Booth Creek wildfire mitigation project.

“I feel like we can come to agreements and hopefully get that prescribed burn done for the bighorn sheep and the wildlife habitat,” she said.

Kincade said the CORE Act coalition asked her to express its thanks to the town of Vail for drafting the letter.

“It’s well written,” she said, “and it hits the points of the amount of support that its gotten from the cities and the counties that are all honed to these special lands.”

Complete letter text below:

Dear U.S. Senator Michael Bennet,

The Town of Vail wishes to again formally express our support for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (CORE Act), passed by the US House of Representatives in February, 2021. We appreciate the leadership of the Colorado delegation to protect public lands in Colorado, and in particular the leadership of Senators Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper, and Representative Joe Neguse for introducing this legislation. Our public lands support our communities’ quality of life and support our sustainable outdoor recreation driven economies.

Continental Divide — In particular, we appreciate that the CORE Act carries forward protections that balance conservation and recreation that we have long supported in the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act. The bill would establish the Camp Hale National Historic Landscape, conferring well-deserved recognition on the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, which fought valiantly in World War II and was pivotal to the founding of Vail, the modern ski industry and the outdoor recreation industry.

San Juans — In particular, we appreciate that the CORE Act carries forward protections that balance conservation and recreation that we have long supported in the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, which was introduced last Congress. Protections for the San Juan Mountains have enjoyed remarkably consistent and broad support, including all three counties where the lands are located, five major local municipalities, over 100 local businesses, and a wide array of affected stakeholders. These stakeholders include ranchers, sportsmen, private landowners, recreation groups, the area’s only operating mining company, and the region’s biggest ski resort.

Thompson Divide — In particular, we appreciate that the CORE Act carries forward protections that balance conservation and recreation that we have long supported in the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, which was introduced last Congress. The Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act has enjoyed consistent and broad support from local governments and diverse stakeholders for years. The bill has enjoyed support from Gunnison and Pitkin Counties, many local municipalities, and a wide array of local businesses and organizations. Individual supporters come from all walks of life and all political persuasions, and include ranchers, sportsmen, private landowners, recreation groups, small business owners, skiing companies, and many more.

The four elements of the CORE Act are all reflective of and accountable to the needs and interests of diverse stakeholders, with carefully drawn boundaries and thoughtful designations. We are appreciative that these proposed designations were locally developed to address existing and future recreation, wildlife habitat, wildfire management, agricultural and water supply needs. Millions of people visit the central mountains and western slope of Colorado each year, and our federal public lands contribute immeasurably to our economy and quality of life.

In addition, we note that with the increasing climate change and wildfire danger in our community, the Town of Vail has invested heavily in considerable wildfire mitigation planning and on the ground projects over the past decade. The Vail community values the ability to continue to address these wildfire concerns, in and around wilderness areas adjacent to our community, particularly in the Spraddle Creek area where new wilderness is being proposed through the CORE Act. A smooth and quick process of approvals in the case of fire suppression needs, and proactive wildfire mitigation projects in this area will be critical to maintain the safety of the town’s residents, visitors and property, as well as the recreational opportunities, watershed health and water quality, wildlife habitat and natural resources.

We must have the vision to protect what is wilderness, create ongoing opportunities for sustainable recreation, and conserve wildlife habitat while mitigating for wildfire as best possible. On behalf of the Vail Town Council, we hope that Colorado’s congressional delegation will prioritize passage of the CORE Act in the 117th Congress and continue to work closely with the Town of Vail on wildfire issues after its passage.

Sincerely,

Kim Langmaid, Mayor, on behalf of the Vail Town Council Vail, CO


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