Watch Bennet’s Testimony HERE
Washington, D.C. — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining in support of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act. For over a decade, Bennet has worked with Coloradans to draft this legislation, which will protect over 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado and grow the economy.
“The CORE Act is a testament to the hard work and commitment of people in my state who care deeply about protecting our public lands. They know how much public lands matter to our economy, our heritage, and our way of life,” said Bennet during his testimony. “This bill is their best effort to strengthen and sustain that legacy for the next generation. I’m grateful to the committee for giving their hard work a fair hearing today, and I look forward to working with all of you to pass this priority legislation for Colorado.”
“Gunnison County has worked for years on the Curecanti and Thompson Divide elements of the CORE Act. We have fought long and hard for the CORE Act because our constituents believe in these sensible public lands protections that are vital to our economy, our values and the enduring opportunity these lands will provide for future generations,” said Jonathan Houck, Gunnison County Commissioner. “For many years, we have worked with diverse stakeholders to develop sensible landscape scale protective measures that match the values of our communities and our desire to see these productive and pristine landscapes thoughtfully protected. We are thankful to Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership and persistence on the CORE Act.”
“The CORE Act could now be referred to as the Colorado Outdoor "Recovery" Act for its potential to become an effective part of the pandemic recovery we all face together. Americans, at higher numbers than ever before, flocked to our public lands during the summer of 2020 to seek fresh air, adventure, healing, and connection,” said Hilary Cooper, San Miguel County Commissioner. “Our public lands are one of America's most valued treasures and the lands protected in the CORE Act are some of Colorado's greatest jewels, enriching our local communities, enhancing our clean air and clean water, and educating all ages about our cultural and natural heritage. My deep appreciation goes to Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper, who has been a supporter of the CORE Act in his previous role as Colorado's Governor because he recognized the value of the CORE Act to Colorado.”
“I am grateful to see the CORE Act get a hearing in the Senate,” said Greg Poschman, Pitkin County Commissioner. “Our revered 10th Mountain Division Veterans of WWII––who are in their late 90s or early 100s––simply cannot wait any longer to see Camp Hale designated as a National Historic Landscape. It's time to get The CORE Act done, for our veterans, for our economy, and for the benefit of the growing number of Americans who seek outdoor recreation as relief from the pandemic. This is our time to insure these public lands for future generations of Americans.”
“Now, more than ever, it's time for the Senate to pass the CORE Act. We applaud the CORE Act for balancing the needs of wildlife and watershed protections with recreational and other uses of the forest,” said Kathy Chandler Henry, Eagle County Commissioner. “This collaborative legislative process has involved our water providers, conservation groups, recreational groups, and businesses. This important bill strengthens Colorado's recreation economy and is supported by stakeholders throughout the state. The Camp Hale National Historic Landscape especially helps to preserve and highlight an incredible piece of history and the legacy of the Tenth Mountain Division in Eagle County. Eagle County thanks Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their stewardship of public lands; our grandchildren will be grateful for these treasured additions in Western Colorado.”
“After all these years, we certainly hope the CORE Act can finally pass Congress and be signed into law,” said Scott Fetchenier, San Juan County Commissioner. “This looks like our best chance in years to pass this bill now that we have Senator Hickenlooper joining with Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse to get this bill over the finish line. This type of legislation is just what we need to protect our public lands, bolster our recreation based economy, and help prevent climate change.”
“Summit County is excited to see the CORE Act moving forward with the full support of our Congressional delegation Senator Bennet, Senator Hickenlooper and Congressman Neguse who we thank for their leadership and advocacy for our public lands. Public lands are the foundation of our economy in our community and drive our recreation economy. It is long past time for Congress to pass this bill, and we hope to see it signed into law soon,” said Elisabeth Lawrence, Summit County Commissioner.
“As a rancher who relies on the Thompson Divide for our summer grazing, I am hoping for the passage of the CORE Act. It will bring needed protection to this area which is so important to myself and fellow ranchers and also for the entire community, who utilizes these amazing lands for hunting and year-round recreation,” said Bill Fales, Cold Mountain Ranch, Rancher at Thompson Divide. “The pandemic makes protection even more vital as our USFS lands are seeing unprecedented levels of use by the public. Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse have been fantastic in advancing this bill. Hopefully, with Senator Hickenlooper’s support, we can finally give this area the protection it so richly deserves.”
“In the veteran community, more and more veterans are turning to nature as a form of medication in lieu of traditional medicine. They are finding that when they spend a little time forest bathing, their minds and bodies feel better and they are able to cope with their post combat service more easily,” said Mike Greenwood, 10th Mtn Division Veteran. “Here in Colorado, the land we are seeking to protect through the CORE Act is a treatment center for many of the veterans who call Colorado home, and many that come here to find peace after their service in our peaks and valleys. Our public lands, and the land included in the CORE Act, is where they once again regain purpose in life, please don't take this away from them. As a Colorado veteran, and more specifically a 10th Mountain Division veteran, I am challenging our lawmakers to make the right decision and protect this land. Camp Hale is a beacon of hope and sacred ground to our veterans, and it’s preservation and protection is long overdue. This is an opportunity for Congress to say thank you to the veterans that gave so much to our country, our state, and of course, our freedom. Congress should not hesitate; it should get behind the CORE Act and let it pass this year in their honor.”
Bennet and U.S. Representative Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) introduced the comprehensive CORE Act for the first time in January 2019, following years of work in Colorado to develop, draft, and negotiate the four individual titles in the bill. The CORE Act combines four previously introduced Colorado public land bills, which have been in development over the past decade: the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act, and the Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act.
In January 2021, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) joined Bennet and Neguse to reintroduce the CORE Act. Hickenlooper is a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill. The CORE Act passed the House in February, along with other public land provisions.
Of the land protected by the bill, about 73,000 acres are designated as new wilderness, and nearly 80,000 acres are designated as new recreation and conservation management areas that preserve existing outdoor uses, such as hiking and mountain biking. The bill also includes a first-of-its-kind designation for Camp Hale as a National Historic Landscape, to honor World War II veterans and Colorado’s military legacy, and prohibits new oil and gas development in areas important to ranchers and sportsmen in the Thompson Divide.
The CORE Act is supported by a broad coalition of counties, cities, towns, local leaders, conservation groups, sportsmen, and a wide range of outdoor businesses.
Bennet’s full testimony as delivered is available below.
Thank you. Good afternoon. Thank you, Chairwoman Cortez-Masto for holding this hearing and Ranking Member Lee, and giving me the chance to say a few words about the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or what we call in my office, my state – the CORE Act.
I also want to thank Senator Hickenlooper for his extraordinary leadership on the bill. As our former governor, he knows Colorado’s public lands better than almost anyone.
The most important thing to know about the CORE Act is that it was not written in Washington D.C. It was written by Coloradans – on the ground, in conference rooms, on kitchen tables, and at trailheads across our state, as John said, over the past decade.
The CORE Act combines four proposals that – taken together – would protect over 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado. This includes new wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas, and lasting protections for iconic landscapes like the Thompson Divide, where Teddy Roosevelt came to hunt in 1905, just months after establishing the U.S. Forest Service.
This bill also provides a new historic designation for Camp Hale, a site where the 10th Mountain Division trained to become America’s first military climbers and skiers.
When these soldiers deployed to Europe from Camp Hale, their specialized training and experience in the Colorado high country helped them route Nazi forces in the mountains of northern Italy, clearing a path to victory in the Second World War.
After the war, this greatest generation, the 10th Mountain veterans, returned home to Colorado and launched the outdoor industry we know and love today. Protecting Camp Hale would not only honor this incredible history and legacy, but also the veterans who continue to find peace and solace in our outdoors.
10th Mountain Division veterans support our bill, and they are not alone. The CORE Act is broadly supported by Coloradans because they’re the ones who wrote it.
Every provision in this bill reflects thoughtful collaboration between county commissioners, businesses, ranchers, sportsmen, and conservationists who spent day after day working together to iron out their differences.
They brokered compromises, they adjusted boundaries, and modified designations until the CORE Act reflected their shared priorities.
The result is a balanced piece of legislation that enjoys the full support of 7 counties, 12 towns and cities, and the State of Colorado that are affected by this.
It also has support from countless outdoor businesses, hunters and anglers, mountain bikers, and the conservation community.
And for Senator Hickenlooper, I wanted to emphasize that the bill is supported by New Belgium brewery and 35 other craft breweries and distilleries from across the state.
They join many other businesses and communities in Colorado that rely on the watersheds and public lands protected in this bill.
If the Committee would allow it, I’d ask that these support letters be entered into the record.
Chairwoman Cortez-Masto: Without Objection.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Let me close by saying, the CORE Act is a testament to the hard work and commitment of people in my state who care deeply about protecting our public lands.
They know how much public lands matter to our economy, our heritage, and our way of life.
This bill is their best effort to strengthen and sustain that legacy for the next generation of Americans and Coloradans.
And I’m grateful to the committee for giving their hard work a fair hearing today, and I look forward to working with all of you to pass this priority legislation for Colorado. Thank you so much for having me today.