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Congress Could Pass CORE Act Wilderness Protections in Defense Bill

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The CORE Act would add recreational opportunities in the White River and San Juan national forests,  and protect the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas development. (Nightryder84/Wikimedia Commons)
The CORE Act would add recreational opportunities in the White River and San Juan national forests, and protect the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas development. (Nightryder84/Wikimedia Commons)
July 27, 2020

EAGLE, Colo. -- Congress has an opportunity to preserve 400,000 acres in Colorado, after the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy, or CORE, Act was attached to a key defense spending bill that cleared the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

Kathy Chandler-Henry, chair of the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, says the CORE Act, which would protect historic sites, recreation areas, wilderness, waterways and wildlife habitats, is critical for the state's economy.

"The outdoor recreation sector of the economy is big in Colorado -- it's big in Eagle County," she states. "So it's protecting the goose that laid the golden egg. We've got to keep those landscapes, so that people can come and get out in the wilderness."

The CORE Act passed the House this past fall, but did not get a floor vote in the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is a strong supporter of the CORE act. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado has not yet taken a position on the bill.

If passed, Camp Hale -- where World War II soldiers trained for alpine combat, and the birthplace of Colorado's ski industry -- would be designated as the nation's first National Historic Landscape.

Chandler-Henry says Coloradans have turned to nature for their physical, emotional and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she says underscores the need to protect access to wild spaces on lands owned by all Americans.

"There is strong scientific evidence showing that being in nature is healing," she points out. "So you can get out in the mountains, you can get some solitude and some space."

The CORE Act was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, which supporters hope will improve its chances of clearing Congress.

The last major Colorado public lands bill to become law, in 2015 to protect the Hermosa Creek Wilderness, and watershed, also was attached to defense spending authorization.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO