CORE Act, which might create the Tenmile Recreation Administration Space, has an vital assembly set for Tuesday


From left: Mike Greenwood, Senator Michael Bennet and Craig Caulder tour Camp Hale in February 2020 to promote the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which will add protections for recreation in Summit County’s Tenmile Range and identify former World War II would. era military training camp in Eagle County as the first ever National Historic Landscape.
Archive by Chris Dillman/Vail Daily

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act — better known as the CORE Act — has been in the works for more than a decade. It could, just maybe, hit a crucial milestone this week.

The bill, which would protect more than 400,000 acres in the Colorado Rockies through a combination of newly designated wilderness areas, recreation management and conservation areas, has passed the US House of Representatives four times. It still has to pass the screening with the US Senate.

The bill would designate the Tenmile Recreation Management Area “to preserve, protect and enhance the recreational, landscape, watershed, habitat and ecological resources of the Recreation Management Area for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations,” so the draft law current text. It would also add safeguards to maintain access to Summit County recreation opportunities “including mountain biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, rock climbing, skiing, camping and hunting,” the bill said.

The CORE bill is scheduled for a committee hearing and possible vote by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this week. Senator John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, is a member of this committee and will conduct the hearing.

Tuesday’s session is the furthest the bill has made it through the process so far. When the bill leaves the committee, it goes to the plenary vote. If the Senate passes the bill, it will go to the desk of President Joe Biden, who has announced he will sign the bill into law.

Up the bill

A group of sponsors and supporters of the bill held a virtual meeting Monday to discuss the bill and its potential impact.

Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, who has campaigned for the law for more than a decade, said the law could be “one of the most significant” public-land laws in Colorado in the past 25 years. Bennet noted that the bill was created at the local level and has support from Democrats, Republicans and independents. Supporters also include environmental, recreational and business interests, including, Bennet said, “an operating silver mine in Ouray County.”

CORE Act would permanently protect 98,000 acres of White River National Forest in Summit and Eagle counties and create the nation’s first “National Historic Landscape” at Camp Hale in Eagle County, where the 10th Mountain Division trained during World War II.

Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman is the son of a 10th Mountain Division veteran. Poschman said the CORE Act could show those living from the early days of unity that “we still have lessons to learn” from that generation.

Poschman said John Tripp, who turns 103 this year, wants the law passed, not just for the Camp Hale designation, but for the future of the Thompson Divide.

The bill is a big deal for those in the Thompson Divide region, an alpine area that includes parts of Pitkin, Gunnison and Garfield counties. This area has long been under pressure from drilling, mining, agricultural and environmental interests.

A “vital” bill

Carbondale rancher Bill Fales said the bill is “vitally important” to the area and could provide certainty about the future of the area.

Bennet noted that the wording of the bill could expand the Thompson Divide area by approximately 19,000 acres and prevent the opening of a mine near Crested Butte. But, he added, the bill could also pave the way for a land swap for mine ownership.

More than half of the CORE Act affects land in Gunnison County. Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck said the language of the bill began in local cafes and elsewhere and was driven by concerns about the balance of recreation, industry and conservation.

San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper noted that the bill is more important as public land use proliferates.

While the bill has broad support in that region, Bennet said the lack of action at the federal level shows the “dysfunction” in the nation’s Capitol.

Bennet noted that there are senators who are “ideologically opposed” to imposing new restrictions or changing the use of public lands.

But, Hickenlooper said, he sees nothing “unsolvable” about postponing the bill this time.