Rep. Joe Neguse visits Vail, says CORE Act gaining momentum in Congress
Democrat who represents 2nd Congressional District says public lands preservation is a top priority
What’s the CORE Act?
After years of work on separate bills, advocates have rolled a number of proposals into one piece of the legislation, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy, or CORE, Act.
The bill combines proposes various levels of preservation for about 400,000 land in Summit and Eagle counties, as well as in the San Juan Mountains and around the Curecanti National Recreation Area near Gunnison. In Eagle County, the Camp Hale area has been proposed as the nation’s first National Historic Landscape.
A summary of the bill is available on line at Rep. Joe Neguse’s website
VAIL — Monday morning was cold at Camp Hale, but Rep. Joe Neguse came into Vail warmed up for further action.
Neguse, a Democrat, represents about one-third of Eagle County that is in the Second Congressional District, including Vail, Minturn, Red Cliff and Camp Hale. Neguse was in this part of the district Monday to talk about the bill he’s sponsoring with Senator Michael Bennet, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy, or CORE, Act.
That bill’s making progress, Neguse said. There’s already been a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the bill. Next comes the “mark up” phase, in which amendments are added or provisions are dropped. The bill then moves to a committee vote. If that’s successful, the bill goes to the House floor, then on to the Senate.
Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said this bill has made more progress than other wilderness bills have in the past several years. She credited both rolling together what had been separate bills and what she called a “stakeholder-rich” environment in which numerous groups had input into drafting the latest bill.
Leaving multiple uses
Chandler-Henry noted that portions of the land in the bill have been set aside for motorized access, mountain biking and other recreation. In addition, she said, property in the Thompson Divide area would leave current oil and gas exploration leases in place.
In the San Juans, the biggest portion of the CORE Act, Chandler Henry said advocates there have worked with miners and ranchers on a proposal to preserve land there.
Speaking to a group of bill supporters at the Colorado Snowsports Museum on Monday, Neguse praised all those groups for working together to craft the current proposal. That support has also been carried to Washington D.C.
Neguse noted that more than 15 people from Colorado traveled to the nation’s capitol at their own expense to testify during the bill’s committee hearing. That hearing was held in a small room, Neguse recalled, and the public gallery was full, mostly of people supporting the CORE Act.
‘Passion’ for public lands
Following his remarks — and a conversation with 10th Mountain Division Veteran Sandy Treat — Neguse had a few minutes to talk about the reasons he’s sponsoring this bill.
Neguse said public land preservation is one of his top priorities. When he arrived in Washington as part of a new Democratic House majority, he requested, and was assigned, a seat on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Some of that work has already paid off. Neguse included language that allows the town of Minturn to repair a headgate on Bolts Ditch, in a wilderness area above town, in a large public lands bill signed into law in March.
“It’s an exciting time,” Neguse said.
Taking an up-close look at Camp Hale on Monday only added to that excitement, he said. Between the landscape where the 10th Mountain Division trained in World War II, and a monument at Ski Cooper honoring division members who fell in battle, Neguse said he’s been touched.
“I can’t wait to bring my (eight-month-old) daughter up to show her,” he said.
Vail native Jonathan Staufer is exited, too. Staufer, who has long worked on conservation projects and issues in the region, said the first wilderness proposal he worked on was for 5 million acres. This bill has gotten farther than any of the others in the past 15 years or so.
Staufer said he’s impressed, with both the CORE Act and Vail’s new congressional representative.
“A great deal has to do with (Neguse),” Staufer said.
While Neguse credits stakeholders, Staufer said the CORE Act’s momentum so far is due to the work Neguse is putting in.
Neguse is careful to note that there’s a long way to go before the CORE Act might become law. But, he added, “There’s a palpable sense of momentum right now.”
The proposed deal would be a three-way agreement between the town, the developer and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.