The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act
In early 2019, Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act. The bill protects approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establishing new wilderness areas and safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities to boost the economy for future generations. The CORE Act unites and improves four previously introduced bills: the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, and the Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act.
“We were very happy to see that wilderness area expand [under the bill], because we’re conservationists, as well… Yes, we want to build new trails and recreate just like most user groups. But we are definitely conservationists as well and understand we need to protect our public lands.” – Ernest Saegar, board member, Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association, on the Continental Divide bill, included in the new CORE Act.
Of the land protected, about 73,000 acres are new wilderness areas in the White River and San Juan national forests, and nearly 80,000 acres are new recreation and conservation management areas that preserve existing outdoor uses, such as hiking and mountain biking. The bill also includes a first-of-its-kind National Historic Landscape designation to honor Colorado’s military legacy at Camp Hale, and prohibits new oil and gas development in areas important to ranchers and sportsmen, including the Thompson Divide.
Wilderness Workshop, as part of a broad coalition of organizations and citizens, has been working for over a decade to achieve congressional protection for Thompson Divide and Continental Divide. We’ve achieved introduction in both Houses of Congress and the bill enjoys broad support from mountain bikers, county commissioners, local business owners, hunters, veterans, conservationists, and even industry groups like Climax Mines, Excel Energy and Colorado Springs Utility. It would protect a mix of iconic high country and critical low elevation wildlife habitat for wildlife and people alike.
“The entire bill is incredible. People who go there just to recreate will end up learning about our military history, and people going there to see the military history piece might get awakened to some outdoor recreation opportunities.” – Garret Reppenhagen, Iraq War veteran, on the newly proposed National Historic Landscape designation for Camp Hale.
Specifically, the CORE Act:
– Creates three new Wilderness Areas in the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge, and Williams Fork Mountains, totaling 21,033 acres – and adds 20,196 acres to the existing Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak, and Holy Cross Wilderness Areas.
– Adds a new 16,996-acre Recreation Management Area in the Tenmile Mountain Range outside of Breckenridge, to ensure continued mountain biking, hiking, and increased land protections.
– Creates two new Wildlife Conservation Areas totaling 11,668 acres near Loveland Pass and in the Williams Fork Mountains to protect Colorado’s only migration corridor over Interstate 70 for elk, bear, mule deer, and other wildlife, as well as enhance wildlife habitat for the Greater Sage-grouse.
– Designates our nation’s first National Historic Landscape to protect 28,728 acres around Camp Hale, home of the WWII-era training grounds of the storied 10th Mountain Division.
– Permanently withdraws around 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs from future oil and gas development, while preserving existing private property rights for leaseholders and landowners.
– Creates a program to lease and generate energy from excess methane in existing or abandoned coal mines in the North Fork Valley—supporting the local economy and addressing climate change.
– Adds 23,000 acres of Wilderness to the existing Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels Wilderness Areas near Telluride, Norwood, Ouray, and Ridgway – and designates 8,884 acres surrounding the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area as new Wilderness.
– Designates 21,663 acres as the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area between the towns of Ophir and Silverton and also creates the 792-acre Liberty Bell East Special Management Area near Telluride.
– Prohibits future mineral development on 6,590 acres outside of Norwood at Naturita Canyon.
– Formally establishes the boundary of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, currently one of only a handful of NPS units without a formal designation by Congress – which will improve the efficiency of public land management in the area by initiating a series of administrative jurisdiction changes.
– Ensures that the Bureau of Reclamation upholds its commitment to expand public fishing access in the basin.
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