CORE Act has an important meeting set for Tuesday

Senate committee to hold ‘markup meeting’

From left, Mike Greenwood, Sen. Michael Bennet and Craig Caulder tour Camp Hale in February 2020 to promote the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which would designate the former World War II-era military training camp in Eagle County as the first-ever National Historic Landscape.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily archive

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act — better known as the CORE Act — has been more than a decade in the making. It might, just might, pass a crucial milestone this week.

The bill, which would protect more than 400,000 acres across the Colorado Rockies through a combination of new designated wilderness areas, recreation management and conservation areas, has passed four times through the U.S. House of Representatives. It has yet to pass muster with the U.S. Senate.

The bill this week is set for a committee hearing and possible vote by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Sen. John Hickenlooper is a member of that committee and will chair the hearing. Tuesday’s meeting is the farthest yet the bill has made it through the process. If the bill passes out of the committee, it will head to a floor vote. If the Senate passes the bill, it will head to the desk of President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign the bill in to law.

Talking up the bill

A group of bill sponsors and supporters Monday held a virtual meeting to talk about the bill and its possible impacts.

Sen. Michael Bennet, who has championed the act for more than a decade, said the bill could be “one of the most meaningful” pieces of public lands legislation for Colorado in the past 25 years. Bennet noted that the bill has been built from the local level, and has support from Democrats, Republicans and independents. Supporters also include environmental, recreational and business interests, including, Bennet said, “an operating silver mine in Ouray County.”

The bill’s major Eagle County impact would be the creation of the nation’s first-ever “national historic landscape” at Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II.

Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman is the son of a 10th Mountain Division veteran. Poschman said the CORE Act could show those still alive from the unit’s first days that “we still have lessons to learn” from that generation.

Poschman said John Tripp, who will turn 103 this year, wants to see the bill passed, not only for the Camp Hale designation, but also for the future of the Thompson Divide.

The bill is a big deal for those in the Thompson Divide area, an alpine area comprising pieces of Pitkin, Gunnison and Garfield counties. That area has long been subject to pressures from drilling, mining, agricultural and environmental interests.

A ‘vitally’ important bill

Carbondale rancher Bill Fales said the bill is “vitally” important to the area, and can provide some certainty about the area’s future.

Bennet noted that the bill’s language could add roughly 19,000 acres to the Thompson Divide area, and could prevent opening a mine near Crested Butte. But, he added, the bill could also clear a path for a land exchange for the mine property.

More than half of the CORE Act involves land in Gunnison County. Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck said the bill’s language began in local coffee shops and elsewhere, and was driven by concerns about balancing recreation, industry and preservation.

San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper noted that the bill is more important in the wake of large increases in public land use.

While the bill has broad support in this region, Bennet said the lack of action at the federal level shows the “dysfunction” in the nation’s Capitol.

Bennet noted there are senators with “an ideological opposition” to putting new restrictions or modifying use on public lands.

But, Hickenlooper said, he doesn’t see anything “insolvable” about moving the bill along this time.

What’s a ‘markup meeting’?

A “markup” meeting is legislative shorthand for a meeting in which committee members offer amendments and other potential changes before voting on a bill.

A markup meeting for the proposed Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act is set for a May 3 markup meeting with the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources. The meeting is set for 8 a.m. Mountain time.

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