Your community connector

CORE Act reintroduced (again)

Locations: News Published

In a press call, timed just ahead of Colorado Public Lands Day, Democrat U.S. Senators Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper and Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CD2) were joined by Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry, Gunnison County Commissioner John Houck, and Carbondale rancher Bill Fales to announce the reintroduction of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy (CORE) Act. 

Call it a sort of re-reintroduction; the bill was first introduced in the U.S. House in 2019 and reintroduced four times since. The Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2020 but did not make it out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

  • Film Festival thumbnail

So, lawmakers are trying again. 

The CORE Act is an ambitious piece of legislation meant to permanently protect close to 420,000 acres of public lands across Colorado. Originally, protections included the Continental Divide and Camp Hale, wilderness in the San Juan mountains, the Thompson Divide (TD) and officially defined the boundaries of Curecanti National Recreation Area. In October 2022, President Joe Biden designated 53,804 acres of Camp Hale and the TenMile Range as the Camp Hale/Continental Divide National Monument. This area has been removed from the CORE Act. 

  • Dave Taylor thumbnail

Protections for the TD remain in the Act. But, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are working on an administrative withdrawal of 224,703 acres from future oil, natural gas and mineral leasing. This may ring a bell because In 2015, the White River National Forest (WRNF) closed 61,000 acres of the TD within its boundaries to future oil and natural gas leasing. Then, in 2016, the BLM canceled 25 illegally-issued natural gas leases there. But, Peter Hart, Wilderness Workshop attorney, told The Sopris Sun that the 2015 decision did not apply to the TD outside of the WRNF.  “There’s a whole bunch of the TD on the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest,” he said. 

The 2015 decision protects the TD for 20 years but it is a forest level decision. “This means that [WRNF supervisor] Scott Fitzwilliams can reverse it any time he wants,” explained Hart. “Or a subsequent forest supervisor could reverse it down the road.” 

  • KDNK thumbnail

The proposed TD withdrawal includes land in the WRNF, the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest, BLM-managed lands, and reserved federal mineral interests and protects the area for 20 years. It covers more land and the protections are stronger, said Hart. “It would be a secretarial level decision, so it could only be reversed or overturned by the [Interior] Secretary or maybe an act of Congress,” he explained.

The CORE Act would go one better: permanent protection of 252,000 acres of the TD.

  • Carbondale Animal Hospital thumbnail

During last week’s press call, lawmakers praised community efforts that have put the TD in the spotlight. “Every provision in [the CORE Act] reflects thoughtful collaboration among county commissioners, businesses, ranchers, sportsmen, and conservationists,” said Bennet. “It enjoys the full support of seven counties, 16 towns and cities, and the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribes in the state of Colorado.” 

The TD Coalition came together in 2009 to fight natural gas leases and protect the area from future leasing. Members include ranchers, hunters, anglers, mountain bikers, hikers, conservation groups and local government officials. Carbondale rancher Bill Fales is still involved and was part of last week’s press call. “It’s truly a grassroots effort that has absolutely unanimous support in this valley,” he said. “Not only does it protect our incredible public lands, but by protecting them, we also protect the private ranch lands that rely on them for our summer grazing.”

  • RJ PADDY thumbnail

Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who represents Colorado’s Third District, home of much of the CORE Act land, is not in favor of the bill. In a September 2022 letter to President Biden, Boebert had harsh words for the Act. “For years, partisan big-city Democrats — with the full backing and support of the far-Left green energy cartel — have attempted to implement massive new land grabs through the so-called Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act,” she wrote.

Boebert has also been outspoken against the Camp Hale-Continental Divide national monument designation and the proposed TD administrative withdrawal. “Local stakeholders have come out in strong opposition to this land grab,” she said in a 2022 press release. “[T]his unilateral designation will kill jobs, harm private water rights, prevent responsible energy production, stop active forest management that will reduce wildfires and prohibit critical minerals exploration. “

Bennet told reporters during last week’s call that the national monument designation helps build momentum for the CORE Act. “Those designations themselves have the support of the vast majority of people in Colorado. Eighty percent of people support the CORE Act,” he said. 

“Obviously, having a split House is going to add to the challenge,” he said, adding that it’s too early to tell this year. “At this stage, I would never predict failure, but instead would bet on success because we have momentum,” he explained. “It’s well understood in Washington how broadly supported this legislation is on the ground.”

The USFS will accept public scoping comments on the proposal until June 16. You can find more information and how to comment at 

Tags: #CORE Act #Joe Neguse #John Hickenlooper #Lauren Boebert #Michael Bennett #USFS
▲Top ▲Top