WASHINGTON — Colorado is one step closer to getting some new federal wilderness designations. The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act was voted out of the House Natural Resources Committee 23-15, largely along party lines.
The CORE Act, sponsored by Boulder Democrat Rep. Joe Neguse would protect 400,000 acres of public land, including 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas in the mountains of Colorado, including land in the White River National Forest.
The act would also protect almost 80,000 acres of new recreation and conservation management areas.
Neguse spoke with many people, from outdoor enthusiasts to military officials, while crafting the bill.
“This bill really has been the byproduct of a lot of stakeholder engagement over many, many years. One of the interesting parts of this legislation is it really was crafted by Coloradans,” he said.
But Republican Rep. Scott Tipton does not support the bill. One amendment proposed by Rep. John Curtis, a Republican from Utah, would have exempted Tipton’s Third Congressional District from the act.
“In my opinion, we need to do more work to find that consensus,” Curtis argued.
But Denver Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette, who also sits on the committee, countered that Neguse did work to find consensus from several stakeholders, not just a few, such as agriculture, mineral, fishing, hunting, farmers and outdoor recreationists. She supported the bill saying that Colorado loves the outdoors, but “we’re loving it to death in many ways and that’s why it’s so important that we consider bills like this legislation to promote outdoor activity and also promote preservation of appropriate activity in appropriate places.”
“Congressman Tipton cannot support the Thompson Divide portion of the bill until there is consensus among all impacted counties on permanent mineral withdrawal,” a spokesman for Rep. Tipton said. He said that Tipton is concerned about the impact that the expansion of wilderness could have on military readiness and an aviation training center in Gypsum.
El Paso County Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn offered up an amendment addressing the High Altitude Aviation Training Site. He wanted to ensure no potential risk to the training center by codifying it into the legislation. But others on the committee were concerned that making it law would take away flexibility the Department of Defense may want and need in the future. Both Lamborn and Neguse say they’ll continue discussions on the issue.
The bill is expected to go to the House floor next. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet sponsored the same legislation in the Senate.