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CORE Act to be reintroduced to Congress

Legislation includes some modifications on land designations
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed the Great American Outdoors Act, but the CORE Act, which was proposed by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, was left off the legislation. The CORE act aimed to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, including 52,000 acres in the San Juan Mountains.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse announced this week they are reintroducing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act to Congress.

The CORE Act has previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives five times but has yet to pass the Senate.

The 2023 CORE Act is set to protect over 420,000 acres of public land in Colorado, safeguard existing outdoor recreation opportunities and establish new wilderness areas. The act aims to boost the state economy and promote wildlife conservation by protecting Colorado wildlife.

“Colorado’s public lands fuel more than our economy – they are a cornerstone of our way of life,” Bennet said in a news release. “The CORE Act is the result of years of conversation and compromise to boost our economy and protect our public lands for future generations.”

Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy is crucial to Coloradans, directly contributing to over 500,000 jobs and generating $37 billion back into the economy, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Within the 420,000 acres of protected land, around 71,000 acres are reserved for new wilderness areas which will include the expansions of the Holy Cross and Eagles Nest Wilderness areas in Eagle County. Eighty-thousand acres of protected land are reserved for conservation management and recreational uses.

The CORE Act was first introduced in 2019 and combined four previously introduced Colorado public land 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.

This reintroduced act follows Biden’s designation of Camp Hale-Continental Divide as a national monument last October. The newest changes that were introduced removed some land designations that received protection under Biden’s designation such as the Tenmile Recreation Management Area and the Camp Hale National Historic Landscape.

Biden’s monument designation created momentum to keep pushing for the CORE Act, lawmakers said Wednesday.

“I will work hard to get (this bill) not just out of committee but to get it passed,” said Hickenlooper, who is also a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, during a phone Wednesday with news media.

The majority of people in Colorado have shown their support for the previous Camp Hale-Continental Divide monumental designation, Bennet said. “Eighty percent of people support the CORE Act throughout Colorado, and want the rest of it done as well.”

The bill has been met with bipartisan support, according to Congressman Joe Neguse. “Different members of Congress, who caucus with the Republicans, from different parts of the country, who voted in favor of this legislation, I think have been convinced by the depth of local support,” Neguse said.

For some, the fight to pass the CORE Act started even before the legislation came into existence, and this reintroduction gives them hope that their fight may soon be over.

“It’s a truly grassroots effort that has absolutely unanimous support in this valley,” said Bill Fales, a Carbondale rancher, during the press call. “Boy, it would be fantastic to get this across the finish line. It’s been 16, 17 years we’ve been working on it.”

Mina Allen is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mallen@durangoherald.com.

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