The CORE Act, or the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, is a federal bill that would protect 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado.
It establishes new wilderness areas, new recreation and conservation management areas, the very first national historic landscape, protects waterways and wildlife habitat, and prohibits new oil and gas leases on areas important to conservation & recreation.
Our non-profit partner The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, one of our partner organizations we donate 50% of profits to, recently expressed their support for the CORE Act to Congress.
The CORE Act has been in-the-works for over the last decade, especially at the local level. Colorado counties, businesses, conservationists, outdoor recreation groups, and other locals have worked together & compromised on the bill.
Now, it’s up to Congress pass the biggest Colorado public lands bill in decades.
What’s In the CORE Act?
The CORE Act helps protect some of Colorado’s best natural and economic resources: alpine lakes, important watersheds, and prized rivers and streams that help ensure clean drinking water, wildlife habitat, prized fishing areas, and rad outdoor recreation opportunities.
Local communities have worked and compromised together for protecting these areas for both conservation and the outdoor industry economy — both of which have very strong support among Coloradans.
The bill protects four important areas:
San Juan MountainsThe CORE Act expands designations for 31,000 acres of wilderness, including iconic 14’ers like Mount Sneffels and Wilson Peak. It also protects some other rad, high country places: no future mining in Ice Lake Basin, the 21,000-acre Sheep Mountain Special Management Area, and no energy development in 6,500 acres of community watershed.
Continental Divide and Camp HaleThe CORE Act will establish Camp Hale as the nation’s first national historic landscape — the place that started the U.S.’s modern ski industry & outdoor recreation economy. It will also create recreational opportunities in White River National Forest; 21,000 acres of new wilderness in the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge, and Williams Fork Mountains; add 20,196 acres to existing wilderness areas Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak, and Holy Cross Wilderness; and create two new wildlife conservation areas & mountain biking access.
Thompson DivideThe CORE Act will protect Thompson Divide from new oil and gas leasing between the Roaring Fork and North Fork's valleys. The local community here has been advocating this for over a decade, because they feel the backcountry here is already valuable for hunting, fishing, grazing, and outdoor recreation.
Curecanti National Recreation AreaThe CORE Act will establish the boundary of 43,000-acre Curecanti National Recreation Area in the National Park System. Curecanti was established in 1965 but never officially designated by Congress; this bill will further protect the natural and cultural values of this area.
Where Is the CORE Act in Congress?
In short: the CORE Act passed the House of Representatives as a smaller part of a much-larger, must-pass bill called the NDAA. The Senate passed their own version of the NDAA that did not include the CORE Act. Next, the House and Senate will compromise on the final version of the NDAA, and we’re crossing our fingers the CORE Act makes it through this negotiation period.
If the CORE Act is included in the final version of this year’s NDAA bill, it’s very likely to become law!
Brief recap on how a bill becomes a law: the bill must pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate. If the House and Senate pass different versions of the bill, then there's a special negotiation between the House and Senate. Once negotiations are finished and the final version of the bill is agreed upon, it's sent to the President for final approval and becomes law.
The CORE Act passed the House of Representatives on October 31, 2019, but it never advanced in the Senate because it wasn’t a high enough priority.
When lower-priority bills like the CORE Act don’t pass on their own, sometimes politicians will tack them onto other bills that are a priority so they get passed. This is exactly the strategy that’s being used to pass the CORE Act; enter, the NDAA.
Why Is the CORE Act in the NDAA?
Each year, the House and Senate pass the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a huge, must-pass mega-bill that sets the military budget and often gets a lot of other small bills tacked onto it.
It’s not uncommon for large bill packages like the NDAA to have a lot of smaller bills like the CORE Act added to it. It helps politicians come to a compromise in negotiations — some smaller bills will make it through, and others will be scrapped from the final version.
There’s good reason to hope, though: there’s already precedent for bills designating wilderness areas to be passed in past NDAA budgets. A Colorado land bill was passed in the NDAA as recently as 2014.
When Congress negotiates what makes it into the final NDAA and what doesn’t, they’re mainly going to be compromising on topics unrelated to the CORE Act. This year’s NDAA includes more partisan topics like renaming military bases. The authorization bill has passed into law for 59 consecutive years despite partisan conflicts on a number of issues each year — so this year isn’t deviating from the norm.
Pres. Trump has tweeted that he’d veto the NDAA if it includes a provision to rename military bases, but Congress can override his veto with support from two-thirds of the Senate and House. Since both the Senate and House passed their versions of the NDAA with over two-thirds majority, it’s very likely Congress could override a Presidential veto if it comes to that.
Congress will take up negotiations this fall on the NDAA, which includes the CORE Act. Negotiations will likely start after October 1 and may continue past the November elections. We're hopeful the CORE Act is included in the final version of this year’s NDAA.
How Can I Help?
Contact your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators and ask them to include the CORE Act in the final version of the NDAA. You don’t need to be from Colorado to advocate for it — it’s a federal bill, and it’s public land, so you have a right to speak up for it!
Use the "Find Your Representative" tool and the "Find Your Senator" tool to find your Congressmembers' contact information.
If you are from Colorado:
Be sure to contact Sen. Gardner and ask him to support it. Sen. Gardner has said he does not support the CORE Act as written, but notes that he is “certainly not stopping it. They could pass it and I’m not objecting to it.”
Gardner faces a tough reelection bid this November and supported the Great American Outdoors Act in hopes it would be enough of a legislative win to appease conservationists & outdoor enthusiasts, though it was one of the only conservation bills he has supported over the last 5 1/2 years. Let him know you support Colorado public lands and ask him to include the CORE Act in the NDAA!
Notably, Rep. Scott Tipton of the 3rd District, which includes the state’s Western Slope and is included in the CORE Act, does not support the CORE Act even though local stakeholders, including ranchers, fishers, hunters, small businesses, counties, and outdoor enthusiasts, have asked him to support it. If you are represented by Rep, Tipton, call or email his office and ask them to support the bill.
Sen. Michael Bennett and Rep. Joe Neguse support the CORE Act — they’re the two that sponsored the bill and introduced it in their chambers of Congress! You can thank them for sponsoring it and ask them to fight for it to be included in the final version of the NDAA.