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Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on Friday told reporters he has no timeline he’s willing to share on when or if he’ll announce a 2020 presidential bid, and then he called the current occupant of the White House, President Donald Trump, “completely unpredictable.”
Bennet was joined on a conference call by the newly elected congressman for Colorado’s Second Congressional District, which includes Vail — Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse. The two lawmakers announced the new and consolidated Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, which combines four previously introduced public lands bills.
The first question on the call was a two-parter about whether CORE is a response to the public lands polices of the Trump administration and then whether Bennet could share his timeline for making a decision on seeking the White House.
“On the second one, no,” Bennet responded flatly. “On the first one, I don’t think about it that way. I think of this as an expression of the bipartisan desire of Coloradans to protect places that are special to them and also seek the economic benefits that occur when public lands are protected.”
Bennet pointed out that years of painstaking stakeholder input sessions led to the four bills combined in the CORE Act, including the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act that would protect parts of Eagle and Summit counties. He and Gov. Jared Polis, Neguse’s predecessor in CD2, introduced that bill last year, although versions of it were floated by Polis dating back several years.
“I don’t bring forward bills that don’t have broad support at the local level because I think it’s too complicated to do it,” Bennet said on the call. “It’s become complicated enough because of the resistance by the Freedom Caucus and others to designate any sort of public lands, to say nothing of wilderness.”
Bennet noted how hard it is to pass something like the 37,000-acre-plus Hermosa Creek Wilderness Act in 2014, which had a broad range of local support from people in the Durango area.
“It’s such a rare thing to see something with wilderness pass these days,” Bennet said. “I’m hoping that that will change, partly as a result of the change in the majority of the House of Representatives [to Democratic control].”
Bennet was then asked whether he had any reason to think Trump would sign the CORE Act, even if it makes it through both chambers of Congress.
“On this issue our problem has been more with the Freedom Caucus guys,” Bennet said. “The president, when he campaigned, said that he supported public lands, and then they did some stuff at Interior that was really disconcerting, like rolling back Bears Ears and the other stuff they did with national monuments.
“So, I think what we know about President Trump is he is completely unpredictable and what we need to do is our work …”
Work, he said, that will hopefully result in passage as part of a bipartisan package of bills that Trump will sign. He added he thinks such a bill has a chance in the Republican-controlled Senate. Here’s the press release from Bennet on the introduction of the CORE Act:
Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO-02) today unveiled the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act. The CORE Act 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.
“Coloradans spent the last decade hammering out compromises to develop reasonable public lands bills with broad support. The CORE Act combines the best of those proposals, reflecting their bold vision to boost our economy and protect our public lands for future generations. Because of this inclusive approach, the CORE Act creates new wilderness areas and preserves outdoor recreation opportunities, so Coloradans can continue to explore the outdoors. Colorado has waited too long for Congress to act on their earlier proposals, but the CORE Act presents a new opportunity to make real progress for our state. I’m looking forward to working with Congressman Neguse to move the CORE Act forward,”said Senator Michael Bennet.
“In Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, we see first-hand that the health of our environment directly relates to the health of our citizens and the health of our economy. The CORE Act brings years of local collaborative input to the preservation of our landscapes, wildlife and recreational opportunities to ensure that Colorado’s public lands remain at the center of our economy and are preserved for generations to come. I’m excited to introduce a robust public lands package that includes important provisions for Summit and Eagle Counties, Minturn, Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon, Vail and ensures that here in the 2nd District we can continue to enjoy and benefit from our public lands,” said Congressman Joe Neguse.
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.
Colorado counties, in close coordination with businesses, recreation groups, sportsmen, and conservationists, helped write each element of the CORE Act over the last decade. Of the land protected, about 73,000 acres are new wilderness areas, 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 to honor Colorado’s military legacy and prohibits new oil and gas development in areas important to ranchers and sportsmen.
A summary of the CORE Act is available HERE.
The following resources for the CORE Act are available below:
A full list of quotes from stakeholders is available HERE.
“I am thrilled to join Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse in support of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. As a Congressman, I was proud to champion the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act with Senator Bennet. Today’s CORE Act integrates the legislation into a robust public lands package that will protect the Colorado economy and preserve the Colorado environment for generations to come,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
“Summit County is very excited for the new CORE Act, of which the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness & Camp Hale Legacy Act is an integral part. We thank Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse for their leadership in this new effort to protect our public lands. Our public lands and Wilderness areas help define Summit County and drive our recreation economy. We have waited too long for these public lands bills to pass and we urge the rest of Colorado’s congressional delegation to get behind this important legislation that will safeguard our public lands in a balanced way,” said Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier.
“These public lands bill are a culmination of years of local collaborative input. We appreciate Senator Bennet’s active role in working with our communities to build these public lands bills and assemble the new CORE Act with Congressman Neguse. I The areas protected are a combination of cherished landscapes, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities and we have a duty to preserve them for future generations. hope that our other representatives in Washington will support the economic and environmental benefits of these bill and add their names to this truly Colorado bill,” said San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper.
“We have long waited for and actively pursued opportunities to protect public lands in numerous areas throughout Gunnison County. These public lands have been the backbone of our communities livelihoods and when well managed and sensibly protected, they will be an enduring wellspring of opportunity into the future. From the largest living organism in Colorado, the Kebler Pass Aspen Grove, to the nation’s largest kokanee salmon fishery anchored by Blue Mesa Reservoir we are happy to see these areas have the opportunity for protections that match our communities values and will continue to be a treasure for locals and visitors alike well into the future. Gunnison County applauds introduction the CORE Act and this package of conservation efforts,” said Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck.
“I am a rancher who has relied on the high-quality summer grazing in the Thompson Divide for 45 years. Protecting these public lands is critical not only to me and my fellow ranchers but to the entire community. Recreation and hunting are also vitally important to our local economy. There are just some areas where the costs to the community outweigh the potential benefits of drilling. The Thompson Divide is one of those places. I thank Senator Bennet for his continued leadership to get this bill passed in Congress eliminating the threat of oil and gas drilling in the Thompson Divide thereby safeguarding the continued prosperity of our community,” said Bill Fales, a local rancher in the Thompson Divide area.