Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse's Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act protects approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establishing new wilderness areas and safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities to boost the economy for future generations. 

Colorado counties, in close coordination with businesses, recreation groups, sportsmen, and conservationists, helped write each element of the CORE Act over the last decade.

Of the land protected, about 73,000 acres are new wilderness areas, and nearly 80,000 acres are 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 National Historic Landscape to honor Colorado’s military legacy and prohibits new oil and gas development in areas important to ranchers and sportsmen.

The CORE Act unites and improves four previously introduced bills: 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.

Four CORE Act Elements

  • Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act

    The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act establishes permanent protections for nearly 100,000 acres of wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas in the White River National Forest along Colorado’s Continental Divide. It also designates the first-ever National Historic Landscape around Camp Hale to preserve and promote the 10th Mountain Division’s storied legacy. In crafting the bill, Senator Bennet and then-Congressman Jared Polis collaborated with community leaders, veterans, and businesses in Eagle, Summit, and Grand Counties.

    • Wilderness Areas: The bill creates three new wilderness areas in the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge, and Williams Fork Mountains, totaling 21,033 acres. It also adds 20,196 acres to three existing wilderness areas by expanding Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak, and Holy Cross wilderness areas. Input and support from community leaders in Eagle and Summit Counties led to these designations.

     

    • Camp Hale National Historic Landscape: The bill designates 28,728 acres surrounding Camp Hale as the first-ever National Historic Landscape. This unprecedented designation speaks to the storied legacy of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Colorado and around the world. The 10th Mountain Division that trained at Camp Hale led our nation to victory in World War II, then went on to create the outdoor industry as we know it today. The National Historic Landscape designation would ensure Camp Hale’s historic preservation, secure existing recreational opportunities, and protect natural resources.

     

    • Wildlife: The bill creates two new wildlife conservation areas totaling 11,668 acres. The Porcupine Gulch Wildlife Conservation Area would protect Colorado’s only migration corridor over Interstate 70 for elk, bear, mule deer, and other wildlife. The Williams Fork Wildlife Conservation Area would enhance wildlife habitat for the Greater Sage-grouse and other species.

     

    • Recreation: The bill creates a recreation management area in the Tenmile Range totaling 16,966 acres. This would protect access to world-class outdoor recreation, such as mountain biking, hiking, and hunting.

     

    • Other Land Management: The bill addresses a number of management issues in specific areas along the Continental Divide. It adjusts wilderness boundaries around the Trail River Ranch in Rocky Mountain National Park to ensure ongoing access to the property for youth and community education programs. It authorizes special use of the Bolts Ditch headgate in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area to ensure the town of Minturn, Colorado, can use its existing water rights to fill Bolts Lake. Lastly, it allows the Forest Service to acquire “the Wedge”—several parcels of land in Grand County—to protect wildlife habitat and the landscape near Rocky Mountain National Park.
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  • San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act

    The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act provides permanent protections for nearly 61,000 acres of land located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado. It designates some of the state’s most iconic peaks as wilderness, including two fourteeners: Mount Sneffels and Wilson Peak. The bill is the result of more than 10 years of collaboration among local leaders, businesses, and ranchers in San Miguel, San Juan, and Ouray Counties. It has passed out of both Senate and House committees with bipartisan support. 

    • Wilderness: The bill designates 31,725 acres of new wilderness areas near Telluride, Norwood, Ouray, and Ridgway. Approximately 23,000 acres are additions to the existing Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels Wilderness Areas. The bill also designates 8,884 acres surrounding McKenna Peak, an existing Wilderness Study Area, as a new wilderness area in San Miguel County.

     

    • Special Management: The bill designates 21,663 acres as the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area between the towns of Ophir and Silverton, which includes Hope Lake and Ice Lakes Basin. The bill also creates the 792-acre Liberty Bell East Special Management Area near Telluride.

     

    • Mineral Withdrawal: The bill protects 6,590 areas of mineral withdrawal outside of Norwood at Naturita Canyon, prohibiting future mineral development in the canyon.
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  • Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act

    The Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act protects the Thompson Divide—one of Colorado’s most treasured landscapes—by withdrawing approximately 200,000 acres from future oil and gas development, while preserving existing private property rights for leaseholders and landowners. It also creates a program to lease excess methane from nearby coal mines, supporting the local economy and addressing climate change. Since joining the Senate, Senator Bennet has worked with ranchers, sportsmen, and elected officials to ensure the bill reflects the wishes of Gunnison, Pitkin, and Garfield Counties and local energy companies.

    • Mineral Withdrawal: The bill permanently withdraws around 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs from future oil and gas development, while preserving existing private property rights for leaseholders and landowners. It also provides the option for leaseholders to exchange existing Thompson Divide leases for credits that could be used to bid on new leases elsewhere. 

     

    • Methane Leasing: Based on a request from Gunnison County, Delta County, and natural gas producers, the bill creates a program to lease and generate energy from excess methane in existing or abandoned coal mines in the North Fork Valley—supporting the local economy and addressing climate change.
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  • Curecanti National Recreation Area (NRA) Boundary Establishment Act

    The Curecanti National Recreation Area (NRA) Boundary Establishment Act formally establishes the boundary for the Curecanti NRA. Although created in 1965, the boundary has never been designated by Congress, limiting the ability of the National Park Service to effectively manage the area. The bill improves coordination among land management agencies and ensures the Bureau of Reclamation upholds its commitment to expand public fishing access in the basin. Since 2011, Senator Bennet has worked closely with counties, federal agencies, landowners, and sportsmen to craft the bill.

    • Boundary Establishment: The bill formally establishes the boundary of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, currently one of only a handful of NPS units without a formal designation by Congress.

     

    • Land Management: The bill improves the efficiency of public land management in the area by initiating a series of administrative jurisdiction changes—a step supported by all of the relevant land management agencies that will save taxpayer dollars. It also ensures Bureau of Reclamation jurisdiction over the three dams in the area that play an important role in the Colorado River. Lastly, the bill allows nearby landowners to voluntarily receive assistance from the NPS to conserve natural resources on their property.

     

    • Fishing Access: The bill ensures that the Bureau of Reclamation upholds its commitment to expand public fishing access in the basin, which was lost when the Aspinall Unit was created.
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