Historic CORE Act bill moves to US Senate following House vote
- Expands the Eagles Nest and Holy Cross wilderness areas.
- Creates the Camp Hale national historic landscape.
EAGLE COUNTY — The U.S. House of Representatives Thursday voted to approve the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate.
The House passed the bill on a 227-118 vote. Among those voting against the bill were Colorado Reps. Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton, all Republicans.
Conservation, recreation and wildlife groups across Colorado welcomed Thursday’s result. The CORE Act would safeguard more than 400,000 acres in the state and ensure future generations have access to the state’s wildest lands and historic areas like Camp Hale, the famed World War II training camp of the 10th Mountain Division located between Leadville and Red Cliff.
The Continental Divide portion of CORE Act includes Eagle County wilderness additions to Holy Cross and Eagle’s Nest wilderness and the nation’s first “national historic landscape” at Camp Hale. Summit County would see a 17,000-acre recreation management area in the Tenmile Range as well as wildlife conservation protections and new wilderness. Eagle and Summit County commissioners have supported the bill since its introduction.
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Most of the public land in the bill is in the 3rd Congressional District, which Tipton represents. In a release Thursday, Tipton wrote that the act is “not there yet,” particularly regarding protecting current grazing rights in the Thompson Divide and water rights and other management issues in the proposed Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Tipton’s statement also refers to letters of objection and concern from the Montrose, Montezuma and Mesa county commissioners, as well as Club 20, a lobbying group for the Western Slope.
But Rep. Joe Neguse, whose 2nd Congressional District includes Summit and Grand counties, as well as the eastern portion of Eagle County, said directly affected communities support the act.
“We’ve yet to receive any objections from any community that is impacted by the bill,” Neguse said, adding that commissioners in eight counties, six of which are in the Third District, support the bill.
A large coalition of conservation, recreation, veteran, hunting and fishing groups, as well as over 300 businesses and thousands of Coloradans support the CORE Act.
On the same media call, Sen. Michael Bennet said that some of the objections to the bill “would require us to upset a very clear consensus” forged between local governments, user groups and federal agencies and officials.
“After 10 years of work with them, we’re not about to do that,” Bennet said.
Various groups were quick to praise the House’s action on the bill.
In a text message while traveling, Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry wrote: “We are very excited that the first vote was positive. There’s a lot of support in Colorado for the passage of this act, and local stakeholders throughout the bill’s area have worked on it for years.”
In Eagle County, the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance has been involved and a supporter of the CORE Act from the beginning. VVMTA Executive Director Ernest Saeger, in a statement, called the CORE Act “the new standard of conservation bills.”
“By including a wide range of stakeholders, such as mountain bikers and trail users, the CORE Act ensures that recreation opportunities are not lost, our outdoor recreation economy thrives, and is balanced. It designates special recreation areas along with wildlife conservation areas that protect critical habitat and migration corridors, while also creating new designated wilderness areas,” Saeger said.
“Today the US House of Representatives affirmed what folks in western Colorado know, protecting the Thompson Divide and Continental Divide landscapes is the right thing to do. For over a decade Wilderness Workshop and local communities have advocated for the protection of these special places, most recently as part of the CORE Act,” said Will Roush, the director of Wilderness Workshop, in a statement.
Preserving Camp Hale
A release from Conservation Colorado included comments from a number of people who worked on the bill over the years.
Among those providing statements was 10th Mountain Division veteran Bradley Noone.
“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…”
Bennet praised the many veterans who supported the bill, which creates the nation’s first National Historic Landscape at Camp Hale. Bennet noted that many veterans made the time to attend community and other meetings to support the bill.
Neguse honored 10th Mountain Division veteran Sandy Treat in the bill. Treat, a World War II-era of the original “soldiers on snow,” died earlier this year.
If the CORE Act passes the U.S. Senate, an overlook in the Camp Hale area will be named for Treat.
An uphill fight in the Senate
Bennet said he’s optimistic about the bill’s future, and will push to have a hearing scheduled quickly with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Bennet said he’d like a hearing “as soon as we can. People have worked on (the bill) for 10 years.”
But the bill may not have an easy path to Senate passage.
Republican Cory Gardner, the state’s junior senator, hasn’t yet taken a position on the bill.
“We’ll take it one step at a time with the current bill,” Bennet said. Regarding changes to the House version, Bennet said, “We’re willing to work in good faith with people willing to work in good faith with us.”
If the bill can pass the Senate, it then goes to President Donald Trump for final approval, which may pose another hurdle.
An administration statement this week threatened to veto the bill, citing a threat to the Western Slope economy.
Bennet disagreed, saying the CORE act is important to the “preservation and economy of the 3rd Congressional District.”
Bennet also cited a recent survey showing strong support for the CORE Act and other preservation efforts.
“I hope (Trump) will listen to their voices,” Bennet said.
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