As Senate Moves Forward With Public Lands Bill, Bennet Wants Added Protection For Colorado Lands

June 9, 2020
Congress IntelligenceCongress IntelligenceGabriella Demczuk /The New York Times via AP, Pool
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., looks over notes before he questions Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, as he testifies before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during his nomination hearing to become director of national intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

The U.S. Senate is expected to debate and vote on a historic public lands bill over the next couple of weeks. Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet wants a Colorado lands bill to be part of the discussion.

Bennet has filed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy — CORE — Act, a wilderness bill that passed the House last fall, as an amendment to fellow Coloradan Sen. Cory Gardner’s Great American Outdoors Act.

Gardner’s bipartisan bill, of which Bennet is a co-sponsor, would permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and would provide money for the maintenance backlog at the country’s national parks.

Bennet’s CORE Act packaged four Colorado public lands bills that would protect a total of 400,000 acres of land. The protection had been stalled in Congress for more than a decade, and Bennet said it deserves “consideration.”

“The Coloradans who wrote the CORE Act have worked tirelessly to protect public lands for future generations and preserve outdoor recreation, a vital part of our state’s economy,” Bennet said in a statement. “I am calling on my Senate colleagues to include the CORE Act in this public lands package, or to quickly pass the CORE Act on its own in the weeks ahead. It is past time for this long-standing Colorado priority to become law.”

The CORE Act would provide protections for lands in the Thompson Divide, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness, the Curecanti National Recreation Boundary Establishment Act and the Continental Divide and Camp Hale Legacy Act.

While the CORE Act has grassroots support in Colorado, the state’s Republicans in Congress have not signed onto the measure.

Other senators said they’re considering offering amendments to Gardner’s bill, including one that would charge foreign visitors more when they visit national parks and another that would lift the cap on oil and gas royalties paid to Gulf states.

Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who’s shepherding the bill through the chamber with Gardner, said he doesn’t expect any amendments to be included onto the bill.

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