Lien: Trump’s public lands (and CORE Act) tyranny |

Lien: Trump’s public lands (and CORE Act) tyranny

David Lien
Special to the Daily

This year marks 75 years since the end of World War II. The Tom Hanks movie “Greyhound” takes place during World War II’s “Battle of the Atlantic” when Nazi U-boats torpedoed thousands of Allied merchant ships delivering vital war supplies to Great Britain. After the war, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “The only thing that ever really frightened me … was the U-boat peril.”

More recently, the Trump administration’s attacks on our nation’s wild public lands, waters and wildlife has rattled hunters, anglers and everyone else who cares about clean water and public lands habitat. During his three-plus years in the White House, Donald Trump has orchestrated the largest reduction of protected public lands in U.S. history, according to a study published in the journal Science. In fact, the Trump administration has worked to weaken safeguards for nearly 35 million acres — 1,000 times more than it’s protected.

However, here in Colorado some of our congressional legislators are pushing back. In 2019, Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which will protect 400,000 acres of public lands, including creating the first-ever National Historic Landscape around Camp Hale. Soldiers of the famed 10th Mountain Division trained at Camp Hale during World War II before going to fight in the Italian Alps.

The CORE Act is actually a unification of four existing bills crafted with local governments and businesses, conservationists and sportsmen over a 10-year period: the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection piece would halt new oil and gas development in the Thompson Divide area; the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act designates some of the state’s most iconic landscapes as wilderness; and the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act permanently protect some 100,000 acres of wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas including around Camp Hale.

The CORE Act protects important wildlife habitat, including headwaters and migration corridors critical to the health of Colorado River cutthroat trout, elk, mule deer, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep and many other species. This bill has been years in the making through local stakeholder collaboration. The Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers sent a letter to Colorado’s Congressional delegation supporting this measure during 2019.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Cory Gardner has the opportunity to help ensure that the CORE Act is signed into law. Coloradans overwhelmingly support public lands and in the face of greatly increased outdoor recreation during the global pandemic, protected public lands are needed now more than ever. Unfortunately, President Trump has already indicated his opposition to the CORE Act. Why? Given his belief that veterans are “losers” and “suckers,” we can make an educated guess.

While President Trump can point to a few pro-hunting/angling accomplishments during his tenure — including the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act — he has essentially been at war with veterans, hunters, anglers and all public lands advocates since his presidency started. In the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We cannot remain indifferent to the philosophy of force now rampant … We must and we will prevent our land from becoming a victim of aggression.”

During World War II, the U.S. and Britain won the Battle of the Atlantic by, in part, following the wise counsel of Winston Churchill: “Boys, when you’re going through hell, keep going.” For anyone with any interest in public lands and clean water, we’ve been going through hell for approaching four years now, but we will not remain indifferent. We will keep going, as Americans always have when faced with perils threatening our nation’s democratic institutions and way of life. We will prevail, just as we did against tyranny during World War II.

Sen. Gardner has dragged his feet on the CORE Act ever since its introduction nearly two years ago. Now is the time for him to push this bill across the finish line. As we observe this 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II, we ask Sen. Gardner to honor our veterans by adding the CORE Act to Colorado’s great protected public lands legacy.

David Lien is a former Air Force officer and co-chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He’s the author of “Hunting for Experience: Tales of Hunting & Habitat Conservation” and during 2014 was recognized by Field & Stream as a “Hero of Conservation.”

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