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Bipartisan Coalition Advocates to Protect Public Lands, Honor Veterans

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Thursday, November 12, 2020   

DENVER -- Today, following Veterans Day, a diverse coalition of veterans, sportspeople, elected officials, ranchers and small-business owners are coming together to advocate for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act.

The bill would designate roughly 400,000 acres as protected public land, including Camp Hale, the country's first National Historic Landscape, to honor 10th Mountain Division veterans who trained there during World War II.

It also would protect the Thompson Divide area of the White River National Forest from oil and gas development.

Bill Fales, owner of Cold Mountain Ranch in Carbondale, grazes his cattle on the Thompson Divide.

"Bigger than the ranching community here, the entire community really values that piece of the forest," Fales explained. "There's a huge amount of recreation, a huge amount of hunting, a huge amount of snowmobiling."

Fales added it's a grassroots and bipartisan effort, based on the grazing allotments ranchers want to protect as well as all the other uses of these public lands.

Advocates say the pandemic is highlighting the importance of having nature to turn to for physical, emotional and mental-health needs.

Greg Poschman, Pitkin County Commissioner, said in addition to protecting public lands and wildlife, the bill would help support Colorado's more than $62 billion outdoor recreation economy.

"The CORE Act really does help boost our economy with recreation," Poschman observed. "But it also helps protect wildlife and fragile landscapes with riparian areas that are so essential."

Poschman's father served as a ski trooper in Italy during World War II, after being an instructor at Camp Hale's mountain training group. That's one of the reasons he advocates for its designation as a National Historic Landscape.

"It's a long-overdue designation," Poschman concluded. "And it's a fitting way to honor the brave ski troopers who fought for all of us."

The last major Colorado public-lands bill was passed along with the National Defense Authorization Act in 2015.

At today's Day of Action, advocates are urging Congress to do the same for the CORE Act this year.

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


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