Groups Also Release Analysis of Colorado Public Lands Bill’s Protections for Cold-Water Fisheries and Precious Wildlife Habitat
Denver – Yesterday, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and sporting conservation groups from across the state highlighted victories in the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act for hunting, fishing, and outdoor enthusiasts in the Gunnison River Basin. The CORE Act would protect prime sporting access by formally establishing the boundary for the Curecanti National Recreation Area (NRA) and improving land management in the area.
The groups also released an analysis explaining exactly what the CORE Act protects for hunters and anglers––including miles of blue ribbon trout stream and elk habitat––and reaffirmed their support for the public lands bill.
“The CORE Act represents over a decade of work by Coloradans across the state. It is a balanced proposal drafted by Coloradans like the hunters and anglers I met with yesterday,” said Bennet. “As a result, it protects fisheries, habitat, and wildlife corridors, just like the Curecanti National Recreation Area and Thompson Divide in Gunnison County and expands fishing access. Congress should recognize how important this public lands bill is to our economy here in Colorado as well as to hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreation businesses. With broad, bipartisan support here in Colorado, there is no reason why the Senate shouldn’t take up and pass the CORE Act this year.”
“Hunters and anglers in Colorado and throughout the nation recognize the importance of protecting the unique landscapes the CORE Act represents and the fish and wildlife that depend upon them,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado Public Lands Coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Angler Conservation Program. “As we continue to see habitat deteriorate and public access to quality fishing and hunting areas decline, it has become painfully obvious that passing the provisions found in the CORE Act is long overdue. ‘Hunters and Anglers for CORE’ wants to put an end to that and calls on the Senate to push this legislation over the finish line.”
“The four areas slated for protection under the CORE Act are some of the most sought-after hunting and fishing destinations in the state. The conservation of these landscapes has received a great deal of support from local counties and municipalities, businesses, recreation and sporting groups, and other stakeholders. By applying permanent safeguards to more than 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado, the CORE Act will ensure that these iconic landscapes—and the economic activity they support—will remain intact for future generations of Coloradans,” said Nick Payne, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Colorado Representative and Leasing Policy Specialist.
“We greatly appreciate the leadership of Senator Michael Bennet and other members of the Colorado congressional delegation for advancing the CORE Act, which would protect some of the most beloved public lands in Colorado for their unsurpassed recreation, scenery, wildlife, and other unique values,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “We stand in support of a key provision of the Act to expand fishing access in the Gunnison River basin. Outdoor recreation is a key component of Colorado’s economy and the Gunnison River has unparalleled fishing opportunities.”
The Curecanti NRA encompasses a 40 mile stretch of the Gunnison River basin on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. The recreation area includes a series of three reservoirs – Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal – along the Gunnison River. The reservoirs and surrounding lands that make up Curecanti are a destination for approximately one million annual visitors. Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest body of water in Colorado, is within Curecanti National Recreation Area and is best known for Kokanee Salmon and lake trout fishing. Curecanti also offers hiking, boating, camping, and bird watching.
Language in the Curecanti title of the CORE Act was developed in coordination with Gunnison County, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, and sportsmen and women to ensure that the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) continues to expand public fishing access in the basin, after fishing opportunities were lost when the BOR created the Aspinall Unit in the late 1950s and flooded some of the best fishing in the state on the Gunnison River.
In addition to the fishing access provision, the CORE Act also improves hunting and fishing opportunities by:
- Conserving important wildlife habitat for elk, mule deer, sage grouse, and other game.
- Protecting important cutthroat trout habitat at Thompson Divide.
- Protecting the only North/South wildlife migration corridor over I-70 in Colorado.
The CORE Act, which combines four Colorado public lands proposals developed over a decade, builds on longstanding efforts to protect public lands in Colorado by establishing new wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas, including the first-ever National Historic Landscape at Camp Hale.
The CORE Act is the product of years of work by Colorado counties, businesses, recreation groups, sportsmen and women, and conservationists to hammer out compromises and develop a balanced, broadly supported public lands bill. Bennet and U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO-2) introduced the CORE Act in January 2019 with the support of counties, cities, towns, local leaders, conservation groups, sportsmen and women, and a wide range of outdoor industry businesses. It quickly gained momentum in the House, with a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in April, and later passed out of committee in June. The CORE Act passed the full House of Representatives in October with bipartisan support.
Prior to House passage, in September 2019, Bennet sent a letter to Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) requesting the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hold a hearing on the CORE Act. However, no further action has been taken. The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate.
Bennet has sought every opportunity to pass the bill in the Senate. In July, Bennet introduced the CORE Act as an amendment to the Senate version of the NDAA. In June, Bennet introduced the CORE Act as an amendment to the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which also included long-standing Bennet priorities to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and invest in our public land management agencies. In February 2019, Bennet pushed to include the CORE Act in the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which permanently reauthorized LWCF and included new protections for millions of acres of public land in other states across the West.
CORE Act House and Senate Bill text, a fact sheet, frequently asked questions, maps, letters of support, and more are available at www.bennet.senate.gov/COREAct.CORE Act b-roll and other media resources are available HERE.