Our View: Let’s work out the kinks on CORE Act
Pressure on Colorado’s public lands is growing as the state grows. Ramping up preservation for at least some of that land makes sense.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse, whose Second Congressional District includes roughly the eastern third of the Vail Valley, in January, introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. That sweeping public lands bill, which would protect 400,000 acres of public land, combines elements of four previous wilderness and preservation bills into one measure.
Locally, the high point of the bill is protection for the Camp Hale area, which would become the nation’s first “National Historic Landscape.” The bill would also create roughly 73,000 acres of new wilderness, primarily through additions to existing areas.
The bill would create new wildlife conservation areas, recreation management areas and, in the Thompson Divide area near Carbondale, withdraws of about 200,000 acres from potential oil and gas development.
The four-in-one approach combines years of work on what once were separate legislative proposals.
Much of that work has been done by wilderness advocates who want the most restrictive protection possible for as much land as possible.
That approach has run into opposition over the years from groups as diverse as snowmobile clubs and local water districts.
Locally, wilderness advocates spent a lot of time with representatives of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District. Those discussions were needed to protect the local district’s ditches and structures if those facilities ended up in wilderness areas.
Bill advocates say the CORE Act keeps open for motorized access a number of areas that once were proposed to be closed to that use.
Groups representing motorized off-highway users have remained skeptical about any proposals that might close off previously-open areas.
While there are plenty of questions to answer, our public lands need more attention than they’ve had for some time.
As we’ve seen at the Maroon Bells and Hanging Lake, unfettered access to public lands can result in permanent damage to some areas. The Booth Falls Trail in Vail is likely in line for some form of additional protection, too.
On the other hand, snowmobilers, hunters and others are right to be wary of proposals that might close areas currently open to those uses. Mining and drilling are another story, one not really told in Eagle County these days.
The bottom line, though, is that public land use is evolving and our laws need to reflect that evolution. We need public hearings on the CORE Act and similar measures in other states to ensure the people — and not just special interests — have their voices heard. Those hearings might just help make a better bill.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Ad Director Holli Snyder, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Business Editor Scott Miller.