The CORE ACT
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act is a proposed bill that protects over 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establishing new wilderness areas, wildlife conservation areas, and safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities. This bill has been in the works for a decade and 2021 may finally be the year it gets passed. However, as Coloradans, our voice is needed to encourage members of Congress to pass the bill. This blog will cover the following.
1. A high level intro to THE CORE Act
2. Current state of the bill in Congress
3. Direct Benefits to Hunters and Anglers compiled by Scott Willoughby from Trout Unlimited for "Hunters and Anglers for The CORE Act"
4. What you can do to help
5. A more detailed dive in to The Core Act
The CORE Act establishes 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, nearly 80,000 acres of new recreation and conservation management areas and permanently withdraws over 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs from future oil and gas development.
It helps to understand what these designations mean in lamens terms..
Wilderness Areas- protective overlay Congress applies to public lands to minimize human influences on specific land plots
Recreation Management Areas- designation to protect access to world-class outdoor recreation on specific land plots
Wildlife Conservation Area- designation to protect migratory routes and maintain/enhance wildlife habitat
What is the current status?
Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper are reintroducing the bill this year now that the Democratic party controls both chambers of Congress. The Core Act passed the House during the 116th Congress but was stalled by the Senate. "Cory Gardner, who sat on the Energy and Natural Resources committee did not back it. He said it lacked the support of the former Rep. Scott Tipton, whose district included the lands in the bill and sought some changes to it. The bill even got a veto warning from the Trump Administration," CPR News. The political scene is much different this year but Republican Lauren Boebert is likely going to be the biggest barrier.
Trout Unlimited is asking the public to reach out to your local county commissioners and ask they share a resolution of support for the Core Act with the Colorado State Congressional Delegation.
Highlights of CORE Act habitat protection benefiting hunters and anglers:
The following detail was compiled by Scott Willoughby from Trout Unlimited for a recent press release..
Curecanti Boundary Establishment Act
In addition to formally establishing the boundary of Curecanti National Recreation Area and improving coordination among land management agencies, the bill ensures the Bureau of Reclamation upholds its commitment to expand public fishing access in the basin, which was lost when the Aspinall Unit was created. The Bureau originally agreed to provide 26 miles of public fishing access in the Gunnison Basin, but has only accounted for about 14 miles to date.
Within Curecanti, 9,180-acre Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest Kokanee salmon fishery in the U.S. and, along with neighboring Morrow Point Reservoir, has accounted for multiple state records for rainbow trout, mackinaw and kokanee, along with trophy brown trout. The Gunnison River, from 200 yards downstream of Crystal Dam and through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park to its confluence with the North Fork, is designated Gold Medal and Wild Trout Water, including 2.4 miles within Curecanti NRA. Formal boundary designation will also add a layer of protection for 2.2 miles of cutthroat trout stream and 775 acres of cutthroat lake habitat, 5,926 acres of mule deer migration corridor and 7,123 acres of elk migration corridor along with 50,323 acres of elk winter range.
Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act
With its bounty of fish and wildlife habitat, the Thompson Divide area remains critically important to sportsmen and women in Colorado and across the nation. The three main game management units that lie within its boundary are among the most desirable to elk and mule deer hunters in the state, and the largely roadless area serves as year-round habitat for those and other species. More than 34,000 acres within Thompson Divide double as elk migration corridors.
The area also contains several conservation populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout, considered critical to the recovery and maintenance of the species to its native range. Among the 1,550 miles of stream radiating in all directions off Thompson Divide, about 83 miles qualify as native cutthroat stream habitat along with nearly 12 acres of cutthroat lake habitat. The northern boundary of the withdrawal and protection area includes 4.4 miles of Gold Medal fishing water along the Roaring Fork River, and Thompson Divide’s headwater tributaries extend to additional high-quality fisheries in the North Fork of the Gunnison River, the Crystal River and the Colorado River, which sustain surrounding retailers, fishing guides and outfitters that help drive the local recreation economy.
Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act
The nearly 100,000 acres along the Continental Divide surrounding Camp Hale served as the genesis of Colorado’s robust outdoor recreation economy, not only through the legacy of skiers that that passed through the WWII alpine training grounds and returned to the region post-war, but also through word of the hunting and fishing opportunities the soldiers enjoyed. The landscape is rife with elk and mule deer habitat and migration corridors, including more than 10,000 acres of severe winter elk range that the animals depend upon for survival.
The 474 miles of stream within the bill’s boundaries serve as headwaters to Gore Creek and the Eagle, Blue and Colorado rivers, feeding clean, cold water into multiple Gold Medal fishing sections and supplying more than 11 miles of native cutthroat trout stream habitat along with half a dozen cutthroat trout lakes.
San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act
Wilderness and special management area proposals in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado would protect headwater tributaries of the Animas River among more than 325 stream miles that contain nearly 5 miles of cutthroat stream habitat. Four lakes spanning 6.6 acres within the proposed Sheep Mountain Special Management Area also hold the rare native trout. Roughly 50,000 terrestrial acres serve as summer range and calving areas that support mule deer and elk populations on public lands in the region, and a large elk winter concentration area is found in the Uncompahgre National Forest along the proposed 6,500-acre Naturita Canyon Mineral Withdrawal Area that includes cutthroat trout habitat within a tributary to the San Miguel River near Norwood.
What Can We Do to Help?
The Colorado fly fishing and outdoor recreation community has a very powerful voice. We must speak up and show public support for the Core Act so future generations can enjoy our public lands. Please take the time to do the following!
1. Call your local county commissioners (Summit County contact here) and request they share a resolution of support for the Core Act with the Colorado State Congressional Delegation
1. Go to https://coreact.org/take-action/ and write an email to Colorado's Congressional Delegation
3. Repost your support on social media
4. Sign your business up to public support the bill here
5. Call any/all of our Colorado Public Lands Champions to thank them for their strong support of public lands and ask that they do everything in their power to pass the CORE Act now
The CORE Act unites and improves four previously introduced bills:
The following detail was cherry picked from Michael Bennet's website which is another great source of information on this topic.
Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act
- Creates three new wilderness areas in the Tenmile Range, Hoosier Ridge, and Williams Fork Mountains, totaling 21,895 acres. It also adds 20,432 acres to three existing wilderness areas by expanding Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan Peak, and Holy Cross wilderness areas
- Designates 28,676 acres surrounding Camp Hale as the first-ever National Historic Landscape
- Creates two new wildlife conservation areas totaling 11,815 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
- Creates a recreation management area in the Tenmile Range totaling 17,122 acres
San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act
- Designates 31,725 acres of new wilderness areas near Telluride, Norwood, Ouray, and Ridgway, and adds nearly 23,000 acres 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
- 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
- Protects 6,590 areas of mineral withdrawal outside of Norwood at Naturita Canyon
Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act
The bill permanently withdraws over 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide near Carbondale and Glenwood Springs from future oil and gas development.
Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act
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.
Thanks for reading,