Public lands bill provides protection on 200,000 acres of Thompson Divide |

Public lands bill provides protection on 200,000 acres of Thompson Divide

Landmark legislation passes US House; Rep. Boebert votes against bill

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

ASPEN — The U.S. House approved Friday the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, a massive public lands protection bill.

The legislation packaged together eight public lands bills that were approved by the House but not acted on by the U.S. Senate last year. If approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate this session, the legislation would protect nearly 3 million acres in Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona.

The measure was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat. It encompasses the Colorado Wilderness Act and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, known as CORE. Combined, they provide protections on about 1 million acres in Colorado.

The bill would preserve lands including the Continental Divide and Camp Hale, wilderness in the San Juan Mountains and the Thompson Divide, and officially define the boundaries of Curecanti National Recreation Area while restoring public access to the surrounding fishery, according to The Wilderness Society.

Parts of the package would expand the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, create new wilderness in the Assignation Ridge area southwest of Carbondale and withdraw lands from the Thompson Divide area outside of Carbondale from future oil and gas development and mining.

About 200,000 acres of public lands in the Thompson Creek area southwest of Carbondale would be withdrawn from oil and gas leasing under legislation passed by the U.S. House on Friday.
Photo from Ecoflight

Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, a longtime advocate for the CORE Act, praised the vote Friday.

“Whether people are hunters, mountain bikers, county commissioners or ranchers, we know that Coloradans, especially in the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts, support the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act in overwhelming numbers,” Will Roush, Wilderness Workshop’s executive director, said in a statement.

The CORE Act would preserve roughly 400,000 acres of public lands, including 200,000 acres in Thompson Divide. Rancher Judy Fox-Perry has worked for over a decade for the protections.

“Whether it’s hunters, hikers, snowmobilers, mountain bikers, skiers and other recreationists, or ranchers with the deep roots of local families, our community is deeply unified for the preservation of the Thompson Divide,” Fox-Perry said in a statement. “I’m excited to see the CORE Act pass the House of Representatives for a third time and look forward to the Senate passage of this once-in-a-generation bill.”

The measure passed on a 227-200 vote, with support from eight Republicans.

Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Silt, voted against the package. She said in a statement that the bill was a “Democrat land grab that would lock up 510,000 acres of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.”

She labeled the bill an “extreme package that will kill jobs, limit outdoor recreation, prevent public access, exacerbate wildfire challenges, stifle responsible energy production and lockup 3 million acres of public land.”

Boebert, who was elected in November, complained that her office was not consulted before the vote.

In addition to protecting about 1 million acres in Colorado and Arizona, the package would conserve 821,000 acres in California and 132,000 acres in Washington. Half of the 3 million acres would be designated as wilderness, the highest level of protection.

Its passage comes just weeks after President Joe Biden announced a goal to conserve at least 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030 to help combat climate change.

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, vowed in a joint statement Friday to work until the Senate passes the bill. No vote is currently scheduled on the measure in the senate.

“Not even a month after the introduction of the CORE Act, we are thrilled that our bill has passed the House for the third time,” Bennet said in the statement. “The widespread support for the CORE Act across Colorado speaks for itself. Now that the House has done its job, Senator Hickenlooper and I won’t stop working until this bill passes the Senate and is signed into law.”

This story is from The Vail Daily contributed to this report.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.