Following administrative actions, Colorado ranchers, veterans, and conservationists urge Congress to protect remaining places in the bill
Denver, CO – A local coalition is applauding the reintroduction of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act by Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse, and co-sponsored by Senator John Hickenlooper and Reps. Diana DeGette, Jason Crow, Yadira Caraveo, and Brittany Pettersen. This legislation is the most significant and broadly supported effort to protect Colorado’s most cherished lands, waters, and forests in a generation.
The CORE Act has passed the U.S. House of Representatives five times with bipartisan support in the 116 th and 117 th Congresses and received a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing and markup (aka committee vote) in the 117 th . The bill would protect nearly 400,000 acres of public lands in areas including the Continental Divide, San Juan Mountains, and the Thompson Divide; it will also officially define the boundaries of Curecanti National Recreation Area. These areas include some of Colorado’s most iconic, historic, and ecologically significant places, and their preservation will bolster world-renowned outdoor recreation opportunities, support local economies, and preserve critical wildlife habitat.
“We took a great step in honoring our veterans and protecting wild outdoor places that provide solitude when President Biden designated the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument last fall,” said Josh Jespersen, former U.S. Navy SEAL. “Thankfully, Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse have joined us in saying that it’s time to finish the job and pass the CORE Act in its entirety. The Act has so much local support, including from veterans like me, that Congress should find a way to pass the bill this year and send it to the President’s desk.”
On Oct. 12, 2022, President Biden utilized his executive authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the roughly 53,800-acre Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument. The legislation being introduced in the 118th Congress recognizes this designation and no longer proposes the creation of the Camp Hale National Historic Landscape, but maintains the proposed Tenmile Wilderness Area within the national monument.
“We’re still celebrating the designation of Colorado’s newest National Monument at Camp Hale –
Continental Divide. Congress should build upon this success by passing the CORE Act,” said Speaker of
the Colorado House of Representatives Julie McCluskie. “Coloradans overwhelmingly support this effort
to conserve nearly 400,000 acres of our beautiful public lands and preserve outdoor recreation access for
future generations. Our central mountain communities strongly support the effort to protect more of our
lands as wilderness and safeguard critical wildlife migration corridors. Senator Bennet, Senator
Hickenlooper, and Representative Neguse have my gratitude for their persistent work to pass this
Also in October, President Biden announced his administration would begin the process for a 20-year mineral withdrawal for the roughly 225,000-acre Thompson Divide area, stopping any new oil and gas leasing, as well as mining. The process is underway, and on May 3, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management announced a 45-day National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) scoping period for the withdrawal; comments may be submitted through June 16, 2023. The administrative withdrawal is an incredible opportunity to secure protections for 20 years, and the local community and the CORE Act coalition remain committed to securing a permanent, legislative withdrawal as proposed by the legislation. The reintroduction reaffirms broad support for permanently protecting the Thompson Divide.
“For 15 years, we’ve worked to help protect nearly 225,000 acres of public land and I know our
community is Unified for the Thompson Divide! The CORE Act is about protecting healthy habitat for all
the animals that live there. Whether you are a hunter, hiker, fisherman, snowmobiler, bird watcher,
mountain biker, skier, or rancher, everyone wants to see this landscape permanently protected,” said
Thompson Divide rancher Judy Fox-Perry. “I’m excited to see reintroduction of this long overdue
The legislation is a product of a decade of collaboration and compromise by sportspeople, local elected officials and municipalities, outdoor recreationists, community members, small business owners, and veterans. Polling has consistently shown strong support for passing the CORE Act; both a Bridge Strategies poll and the 2020 Conservation in the West poll, found about two-thirds of those surveyed supporting the legislation.
“It is fantastic to see the CORE Act being reintroduced in Congress,” said retired National Park Service
superintendent for Curecanti National Recreation Area Bruce Noble. “Among the many good things
that the CORE Act will bring to Colorado, it will be so important to finally have authorizing legislation for
Curecanti National Recreation Area for the first time since it was established in 1965.”
The outdoor recreation industry is an economic powerhouse in Colorado, contributing $62 billion
annually, and is responsible for a half million jobs, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. There is
increasing awareness of the importance of public lands and waters as more and more people turn to the
outdoors for their physical, emotional, and mental health, especially in Colorado. However, with
that increased attention and visitation comes the awareness that we need more protected lands and
waters, not less.”
“As a long-time supporter of many of the individual components of the CORE Act, such as the San Juan
Wilderness component that dates back more than a decade, I’m thrilled to hear the Act is being re-
introduced,” said Ridgway, Colorado Mayor John Clark. “Let’s finally get it across the finish line!”
The bill would preserve healthy wildlife habitat by protecting key areas from road building, new mines and oil and gas drilling, and other activities that would degrade wildlife habitat and watershed values. It would also safeguard backcountry hunting opportunities and would protect habitat for black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose, deer, elk, lynx, sage grouse, and wild turkey. And it would preserve the land bridge and critical wildlife migration corridor over Interstate 70 at the Eisenhower- Johnson Tunnels.
“Hunters and anglers have seen first-hand how degraded wildlife habitat is negatively impacting the
health of wildlife and our sporting traditions. Passing legislation like the CORE Act is imperative to
conserving healthy wildlife habitat and restoring lands that have been degraded by impacts from climate
change,” said the Director of sporting advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation Aaron Kindle. “The
CORE Acts protects some of the finest fish and game habitat remaining in Colorado. I’m grateful that
Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse have listened to local community leaders, who have long
advocated for the conservation of these very special areas.”
Given the broad support, decades-long collaboration, and the increasing impacts of climate change, the CORE Act coalition is urging Congress to swiftly move and pass this legislation.
For additional statements of support, please see a list of CORE Act supporters. Legislative Background on the CORE Act:
The CORE Act consists of four previously separate bills that were combined to form the CORE Act in early 2019:
● San Juan Mountains – The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act has enjoyed remarkably
consistent and broad support, including all three counties where the lands are located, five
major local municipalities, over 120 local businesses, and a wide array of affected stakeholders.
These stakeholders include ranchers, sportsmen, private landowners, recreation groups, the
area’s only operating mining company, and the region’s biggest ski resort. The bill was
previously introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet in April 2018 (S. 2721) and has been passed by
both the House Natural Resources Committee (Fall 2010) and Senate Energy and Natural
Resources Committee (Fall 2013).
● Continental Divide – The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act
was previously introduced by Sen. Bennet and former Rep. Jared Polis in January 2018. The bill
has enjoyed support from the relevant boards of county commissioners, local municipalities, ski
areas and local businesses, and recreation organizations including hikers, mountain bikers, and
● Thompson Divide – The Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act has united local
governments and diverse stakeholders for a decade. All three counties where the lands are
located, eight local municipalities, and a wide array of local businesses and organizations
support a mineral withdrawal of the Divide and have supported previous versions of this
bill. Individual supporters come from all walks of life and all political persuasions and include
ranchers, sportsmen, private landowners, recreation groups, small business owners, skiing
companies, and many more. A version of the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act
was previously introduced by Sen. Bennet in March of 2017 (S. 481).
● Curecanti National Recreation Area – The Curecanti National Recreation Area has never been
established by Congress but offers an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities in
southwest Colorado including boating, hiking, and fishing.
For more information, contact CDTC Advocacy and Policy Program Manager L. Fisher: firstname.lastname@example.org.