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Colorado Senate hopeful John Hickenlooper uses CORE Act as a campaign issue

Zoom call hammers incumbent Cory Gardner for lack of support for the public lands bill

Scott Miller
Vail Daily
U.S. Senate Candidate John Hickenlooper.
From the Vail Daily

If passed: The Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy, or CORE, Act includes additions or changes to about 400,000 acres of public lands.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, a large public lands bill now languishing in the U.S. Senate, was the focus of a Friday campaign event held by John Hickenlooper, the former two-term Democratic governor running this fall for the Senate.

The event, held via Zoom, had roughly 70 people listening in, most of whom were representing public lands and conservation advocacy groups.

The panel for the call included Hickenlooper and a trio of Democrats representing Colorado and New Mexico in Washngton D.C.: Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Joe Neguse, who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. Neguse’s district includes a portion of Eagle County and other mountain counties, along with Boulder and Fort Collins.

The bill, which last fall passed the U.S. House of Representatives, has been held up in the Senate. Hickenlooper and several Democratic elected officials used that holdup as a cudgel against incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Along with the federal representatives, Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck was also on the panel. Houck noted that the CORE Act is a product of years of ground-up work.

Houck noted that the work to get the CORE Act into its present form included a coalition of local governments, recreation and agriculture interests and others.

“This coalition represents how we want government to work for us — it’s ground-up and locally driven,” Houck said.

Houck added that he’s asked Gardner directly to support the bill.

“It’s about local control, it’s supported by each (affected) county,” Houck said. “He said ‘I won’t stand in the way,’ but I’ve told him we need you to be out front on this.”

The bill has broad local support from county commissioners, outdoor businesses, conservationists, and ranchers, including the counties of Eagle, Summit, San Juan, Ouray, San Miguel, Gunnison, and Pitkin and the towns of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Ridgway, Crested Butte, Ophir, Telluride and Basalt. The bill will preserve approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, including nearly 100,000 acres in the White River National Forest and wild areas across the Continental Divide in Summit and Eagle Counties. 

The bill also offers 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, the highest level of protection afforded public lands, in addition to preserving 80,000 acres of new recreation and conservation management areas and removing over 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas development. 

The bill also includes a first-of-its-kind National Historic Landscape to honor Colorado’s military legacy at Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division trained before fighting in Europe in World War II. One of the lead champions for the preservation of Camp Hale was 10th Mountain Division veteran and Vail Valley local Sandy Treat, who died in September.

In addition to Gardner’s lack of support, President Donald Trump last fall threatened to veto the measure if passed by the Senate. Gardner recently proposed his own bill, the Great American Outdoors Act. Bennet is a co-sponsor of that bill, which would permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Bennet has offered the CORE Act as an amendment to Gardner’s bill, but that amendment may or may not be accepted into the bill.

Focus on Eagle County

Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes was a listener on the call, and asked the panel whether Gardner’s bill might be cover for his lack of support for the CORE Act.

“He thinks so,” Hickenlooper said.

Smith Hymes noted that she also is a member of the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, and noted that bill supporters worked with that group to ensure access to water facilities that would be in new designated wilderness areas.

“There was a collaborative approach to the bill,” Smith Hymes said.

As you’d expect from a campaign event, Hickenlooper said he’d work to ensure the CORE Act’s passage.

He said the amount of local work that’s gone into the bill “deserves an outcome. If I get to D.C., I will do everything in my power to deliver the CORE Act.”

This story is from the Vail Daily. Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.


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