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Colorado lawmakers urge Biden to use Antiquities Act to protect CORE Act land like Camp Hale

August 26, 2022, 7:55 am
Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper in Camp Hale on Aug. 16 (David O. Williams photo).

Colorado Democrats, who at Camp Hale 10 days ago previewed a plan to request executive action to protect key areas of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, on Friday officially unveiled those plans in a press release.

The CORE Act, which would designate 73,000 acres of federal public land in Colorado as new wilderness — including some in Eagle County — has passed in the U.S. House five times but has been blocked by Republicans in the evenly divided Senate, where 60 total votes are required to avoid a GOP filibuster.

The Antiquities Act was used by President Bill Clinton to expand protections at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Monuments in Utah, but because it wasn’t codified by Congress, President Trump rolled those protections back. Biden has since restored those protections, only to see the state of Utah this week sue as mineral interests seek to utilize the federal lands.

Here’s the full press release on the CORE Act request:

Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, and Colorado U.S. Representative Joe Neguse urged President Joe Biden to use his Presidential authorities, including the Antiquities Act, to protect the landscapes included in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act. This letter comes after U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Bennet, Hickenlooper, Polis, and Neguse this month to meet with Colorado stakeholders, who called for urgent administrative actions to protect Camp Hale and other landscapes in the bill, including the Continental Divide, the Thompson Divide, and the San Juan Mountains. 

“We appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s recent visit to Colorado to see Camp Hale. Based on the overwhelming support expressed at the meeting from local elected leaders, conservation stakeholders, sportsmen, ranchers, business leaders, veterans and the 10th Mountain Division Foundation it is clear that Coloradans across the state support the conservation and preservation of these landscapes for future generations,” wrote Bennet, Hickenlooper, Polis, and Neguse in the letter. “We strongly urge you to use your Presidential authorities to swiftly protect Colorado’s public lands within the CORE Act.”

Specifically, Bennet, Hickenlooper, Polis and Neguse are urging Biden to use the Antiquities Act to designate Colorado’s Camp Hale and the Tenmile Range as the Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument.  

They also request the protection of Colorado’s Thompson Divide through a Federal Lands Policy and Management Act mineral withdrawal, which would ban new oil and gas leasing, as well as mining, on a landscape where community members, including farmers and ranchers, have come together to request protection. 

In addition, Bennet, Hickenlooper, Polis and Neguse call on Biden to bring new protections to the areas of the CORE Act proposed for wilderness designation, mineral withdrawal and special management areas on the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests by using the upcoming U.S. Forest Service plan revisions or other administrative tools. More specific details on these protections can be found in this letter of support from seven Colorado county commissioners integral to the CORE Act. 

The letter continued: “By taking these steps, you will be making sure that even more of Colorado’s open spaces will be preserved for future generations. We will continue our fight to pass the CORE Act to deliver permanent conservation for the areas featured in the legislation but ask for your help in the interim to offer administrative protections modeled after the CORE Act.”

The text of the letter is available HERE

In January 2021, Bennet, Hickenlooper and Colorado U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse reintroduced the CORE Act. The bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives five times. In May 2022, Bennet and Hickenlooper welcomed the Senate’s first-ever committee vote on the CORE Act.

The CORE Act combines four previously introduced Colorado public land bills, which have been in development over the past decade: 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.

Of the land protected by the bill, 73,000 acres are designated as new wilderness, and nearly 80,000 acres are designated as 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 designation for Camp Hale as a National Historic Landscape, to honor World War II veterans and Colorado’s military legacy, and prohibits new oil and gas development in areas important to ranchers and sportsmen in the Thompson Divide.

The CORE Act is supported by: Governor Jared Polis, the counties of San Miguel, Gunnison, Eagle, San Juan, Summit, Pitkin, and Ouray as well as the following towns and cities f of Ouray, Crested Butte, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Telluride, Basalt, Breckenridge, Ophir, Paonia, Ridgway, Minturn, Mountain Village, Vail, Snowmass, Mt Crested Butte  Frisco, and Dillon.

In addition, the following organizations also support the bill: The Wilderness Society, Conservation Colorado, NPCA, Conservation Alliance, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, International Mountain Biking Association, TRCP, National Wildlife Foundation, Trout Unlimited, Outdoor Industry Association, Wilderness Workshop, Trust for Public Land, American Whitewater, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, Roaring Fork Audubon, Roaring Fork Sierra Club, Solar Energy International, Carbondale Historical Society, Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association, Arapahoe Basin, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sheep Mountain Alliance, and Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

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