ICYMI: Bennet Welcomes USDA Secretary Vilsack’s Support for Protecting Colorado Public Lands

“Colorado Democrats credited Bennet with convening the roundtable and bringing Vilsack literally to the table…”

Denver — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Camp Hale this week with Colorado U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, and Colorado U.S. Representative Joe Neguse. They met with supporters of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, who called for urgent administrative actions to protect Camp Hale and other places in the CORE Act, such as the Continental Divide, the Thompson Divide, and the San Juan Mountains. Vilsack noted the widespread support and committed to exploring new protections for these landscapes. 

Bennet has worked on the CORE Act with Coloradans for over a decade to grow Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy and protect over 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establishing new wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas, including the Camp Hale National Historic Landscape, and safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities. 

Here’s what they’re saying about Bennet and Vilsack’s visit to Camp Hale: 

CBS Colorado: Colorado's elected leaders secure Agriculture Secretary's help to designate Camp Hale a Historic National Landscape

Gov. Jared Polis, Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Congressman Joe Neguse sat in a rainy tent near Leadville Tuesday afternoon alongside Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, listening to people excited for their push to complete a mission long in the making. The idea is to get Camp Hale to be designated by the federal government as a Historic National Landscape. 

The pitch to Secretary Vilsack seemed to have gone over well…[Vilsack] went on to say he would be in favor of pushing President Biden to push the designation through.

Vail Daily: CORE Act supporters make appeal to Biden’s agriculture secretary to take executive action

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack committed to recommending to Biden that Camp Hale, the historic World War II-era training site for the U.S. Army that’s included in the CORE Act, be recognized as a national monument following a meeting Tuesday with federal and state legislators and community representatives.

Vilsack traveled to Camp Hale, located between Leadville and Red Cliff, to tour the site on an invitation from Sen. Michael Bennet, one of the CORE Act’s sponsors, and was joined by Rep. Joe Neguse, Sen. John Hickenlooper ??and Gov. Jared Polis. Following the tour, the representatives met with a diverse group of local stakeholders to hear why recognizing and protecting Camp Hale as a national monument is important to the Colorado community and the country as a whole.

“Here’s what I’m going to tell Mr. President,” Vilsack said. “I heard an extraordinary example of collaboration and partnership at the meeting that took place in Colorado. … ??I heard this is a special place. One that’s reflective of literally 8,000 years of heritage. One that reflects the values of the West, which are incredibly important, and I think represents that independent streak that we have in this country. Of those who fought for our freedom.”

Bennet, who organized the tour of Camp Hale, expressed gratitude for this movement in the right direction, and committed to continue pushing for the passage of the CORE Act in its entirety.

??”There’s so much to be grateful for here, and I think we’re going to push very very hard to make sure that we get a designation that can hold up,” Bennet said. “We’re going to make sure that we don’t give up on the CORE act, as everybody around this table said, because that’s the ultimate aim, is to pass that well-supported bill to support this environment. That is so important to people here in Colorado but, frankly, important to the entire world.”

Colorado Newsline: Executive action eyed as way to advance CORE Act goals in Colorado, officials say during Vilsack visit

Colorado leaders say they are committed to protecting Camp Hale in Eagle County and thousands of other acres of federal land in the state, whether that be through pending legislation stalled in the Senate or through executive action at the federal level.

It would be protected with a historic landscape designation through the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy — or CORE — Act, which has repeatedly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives under Neguse’s leadership but has failed to make it through a deadlocked Senate. The CORE Act would also protect land in southwest Colorado, land near the Blue Mesa Reservoir and land in the Thompson Divide area.

“Our preference, obviously, is to pass the CORE Act. We’re going to continue to fight for that. The places that are appropriate for other designation, like a national monument designation or mineral withdrawal — we’ll look at that,” Bennet told reporters after the gathering.

Bennet, a sponsor of the CORE Act, organized the Tuesday meeting and invited local conservationists, ranchers, environmentalists and elected officials. Leaders all said they understand the need for land protection, specifically for Camp Hale.

Denver Post: Stalled in Congress, Colorado Democrats ask Biden to take action to preserve public lands

On Tuesday, Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, Rep. Joe Neguse and Gov. Jared Polis hosted Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack near historic Camp Hale to make the case for whatever action the president could take to achieve the goals of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.

Surrounded by nearly two dozen advocates and more onlookers, Vilsack said he’d bring back a favorable report of “extraordinary collaboration and partnership” driving the initiative. But it would be premature to say exactly what those actions might be.

The Colorado Democrats credited Bennet with convening the roundtable and bringing Vilsack literally to the table near Leadville. The CORE Act is essentially four separate pieces of legislation that, combined, would add various protections to more than 400,000 acres of public lands throughout the state, according to advocates.

Colorado Sun: With the CORE Act stalled, its supporters want Biden to protect Colorado’s public lands right now through executive action

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who is among the sponsors of the CORE Act, organized the gathering Tuesday.

“I think our preference, obviously, is to pass the CORE Act,” Bennet, who is facing election-year pressure to get the CORE Act done, told reporters. “We’re going to continue to fight for that.”

But in the meantime, Bennet said, national monument designations and mineral withdrawals through executive action will be sought in an effort to speed up the protections. 

Asked why Biden hasn’t taken action already, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper exclaimed “he’s been busy.” 

Vilsack echoed that sentiment, but also acknowledged that conversations with the president about protecting lands targeted by the CORE Act should have happened “yesterday.” 

“I think it really is a model of what we should be doing in this country,” Vilsack said, nodding to how the bill was formed through conversations with groups and elected leaders across Colorado. “I’m gonna go back and make sure that the president and the White House are fully briefed on this and make sure that our team is moving as expeditiously as we possibly can to do whatever we can.”