In January, two Colorado lawmakers, Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse, introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act. Outdoor Alliance is fired up about this bill, which combines protection of a number of important Colorado landscapes with benefits for people who love getting outside.
The bill brings together a number of previously-introduced bills, including 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. Outdoor Alliance and its member groups, including IMBA and Access Fund, have worked on protecting these landscapes for more than a decade. In the CORE Act, Colorado lawmakers have taken great care to protect the world-class hiking, climbing, and mountain biking along the Continental Divide, the San Juan Mountains, and the Thompson Divide.
In the San Juans, the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area protects backcountry ski terrain near Lizard Head Pass and creates management for the Ophir Valley area for new mountain biking trails near the town of Ophir. The Liberty Bell and Whitehouse Wilderness additions protect world-class hiking and climbing opportunities in the iconic Mt. Snefflels range while allowing for a trail corridor for the iconic Liberty Bell/Hardrock 100 trail. In the Continental Divide bill, the Tenmile Wilderness and Recreation Management Areas provide opportunities for long ridgeline technical traverses, challenging backcountry ski terrain, and world class mountain biking, and the Spraddle Creek Wilderness addition provides a primitive backcountry area in close proximity to downtown Vail while keeping the future mountain bike extension of the North Vail Trail viable. These designations allow for a new Wilderness-urban interface which provides a unique opportunity to experience and protect these important landscapes. Outdoor Alliance supports the designation of Camp Hale as the first National Historic Landscape. Camp Hale is the birthplace of the 10th Mountain Division and is largely responsible for Colorado's ski industry and many modern climbing techniques and gear. The designation would honor American heroes as well as America's human-powered recreation culture. You can read Outdoor Alliance’s full testimony at right.
Generally, the hearing went well, but there were a few things of note. First, testimony from the Forest Service indicated that they supported provisions in the bill based on what’s in the existing Forest Plan. In other words, if an area is designated “recommended Wilderness” in the Forest Plan, the agency supports Wilderness designation, and conversely, they oppose it where the plan doesn’t make that specification. This is a worthwhile reminder of the importance of Forest Planning. The Forest Service even abstained from commenting on portions of the bill that affect the GMUG Forests because of the ongoing plan revision there. Consider getting involved.
The hearing was also interesting because of the opposition expressed by some committee Republicans, most notably Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-3). While Colorado Democrats support the bill, which would be enough to sidestep his objections in the Democratically-controlled House, the bill won’t go anywhere in the Senate without Republican support, in particular the support of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), and it’s hard to imagine him splitting with Rep. Tipton on this. What does this mean for you? If you’re in Colorado, particularly in Rep. Tipton’s district, please consider dropping your lawmakers a line.
This bill has broad support from outdoor recreation groups, conservation organizations, and businesses. However, we need your help to get Rep. Tipton Senator Gardner on board. If you are a Colorado resident, take a moment to send a note to your lawmakers using the tool below: