House passes CORE Act in massive public lands bill |

House passes CORE Act in massive public lands bill

Landmark legislation now moves to Senate; Rep. Boebert votes against bill

Tom Lotshaw, Vail Daily

Hoping that the third time is the charm, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday again passed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, along with other public land provisions.

The CORE Act aims to grow Colorado’s outdoor recreation based economy, protecting over 400,000 acres of public land across the state and establishing new wilderness, recreation and conservation areas.

The legislation packaged together eight separate public lands bills that were approved by the House but not acted on by the U.S. Senate last year. If approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate this session, the legislation would protect nearly 3 million acres in Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona.

The measure, known as the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat. It encompasses the Colorado Wilderness Act and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, known as CORE. Combined, they provide protections on about 1 million acres in Colorado.

The bill would preserve lands including the Continental Divide and Camp Hale, wilderness in the San Juan Mountains, and the Thompson Divide, and officially define the boundaries of Curecanti National Recreation Area while restoring public access to the surrounding fishery, according to The Wilderness Society.

“These areas include some of Colorado’s most iconic, historic and ecologically significant public lands, and their preservation would bolster Colorado’s world-renown outdoor recreation opportunities, supporting local economies, preserving critical wildlife habitat, and honoring our country’s veterans,” The Wilderness Society said in a statement following the House vote.

“I’m thrilled that we are able to pass the CORE Act through Congress so early in the 117th Congress,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado), recently appointed chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

“The CORE Act was crafted by Coloradans over the last decade and has support from local communities, conservationists, ranchers and anglers throughout our state. Last Congress, we were able to pass this legislation out of the House twice, and with the support of Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper in the Senate, we look forward to getting it over the finish line this Congress,” Neguse said.

The measure passed on a 227-200 vote, with support from eight Republicans.

Rep Lauren Boebert, who represents the western portion of Eagle County, including parts of Avon and EagleVail, alongwith Edwards, Eagle, Gypsum, Dotsero and Wolcott, voted against the package. Boebert, a Republican from Silt, said in a statement the bill was a “Democrat land grab that would lock up 510,000 acres of Colorado’s Third Congressional District.”

She labeled the bill an “extreme package that will kill jobs, limit outdoor recreation, prevent public access, exacerbate wildfire challenges, stifle responsible energy production and lockup 3 million acres of public land.”

Boebert, who was elected in November, complained that her office was not consulted before the vote.

Local reaction

Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler Henry, in a statement, urged the Senate to pass the legislation.

“We applaud the CORE Act for balancing the needs of wildlife and watershed protections with recreational and other users of the forest,” she said. “This collaborative legislative process has involved our water providers, conservation groups, recreational groups and businesses. This important bill strengthens Colorado’s recreation economy and is supported by stakeholders throughout the state. The Camp Hale National Historic Landscape especially helps to preserve and highlight an incredible piece of history and the legacy of the Tenth Mountain Division in Eagle County. Our grandchildren will be grateful for these treasured additions in Western Colorado.”

Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director for The Wilderness Society, said “It’s fitting to see the CORE Act advance quickly this Congress, and that swift action is reflective of the strong support the legislation enjoys across Colorado. Communities have worked together for decades to shape the CORE Act into a broadly supported bill that bridges political divides.”

Posting on Twitter, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) said he is thrilled to see the legislation pass the House on Friday. Bennet added that he and Sen. John Hickenlooper “look forward to passing this landmark bill in the Senate to finally get this done for Coloradans.”

The Aspen Times’ Scott Condon contributed reporting.

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