Briefline

Executive action eyed as way to advance CORE Act goals in Colorado, officials say during Vilsack visit

By: - August 16, 2022 6:25 pm

Gov. Jared Polis, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. John Hickenlooper speak at Camp Hale in Eagle County on Aug. 16, 2022. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado leaders say they are committed to protecting Camp Hale in Eagle County and thousands of other acres of federal land in the state, whether that be through pending legislation stalled in the Senate or through executive action at the federal level.

“I think there’s momentum for this. I think there’s momentum for those who have worked collaboratively for a long period of time finally recognizing and realizing when their work actually pays off. I’ve got to talk to the president,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at the end of a meeting at Camp Hale that included Gov. Jared Polis, Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, Rep. Joe Neguse — all Democrats — and stakeholders who have been working on the conservation and protection of the area.

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Camp Hale is the former base near Leadville where 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained before heading to fight in World War II. The U.S. Army continued to use the location for winter training exercises until 1965. It is now a popular recreation spot.

It would be protected with a historic landscape designation through the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy — or CORE — Act, which has repeatedly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives under Neguse’s leadership but has failed to make it through a deadlocked Senate. The CORE Act would also protect land in southwest Colorado, land near the Blue Mesa Reservoir and land in the Thompson Divide area.

“Our preference, obviously, is to pass the CORE Act. We’re going to continue to fight for that. The places that are appropriate for other designation, like a national monument designation or mineral withdrawal — we’ll look at that,” Bennet told reporters after the gathering.

Urgency, to me, is the central takeaway from today’s conversation ... We’ve got to get this done while we have these incredible 10th Mountain Division veterans who are still with us to share in this legacy.

– Rep. Joe Neguse

Those types of designations can be done through executive action from President Joe Biden, though Bennet and Hickenlooper were adamant that a permanent solution via legislation is preferred.

“Your support and willingness to step in front and see Camp Hale as a national monument is significant. We will be here to support you on all those pieces. One of the most significant parts of Camp Hale becoming a national monument is that it is the last World War II post that can be publicly accessed,” Nancy Kramer, the program coordinator of Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Program, told the lawmakers and secretary.

Bennet, a sponsor of the CORE Act, organized the Tuesday meeting and invited local conservationists, ranchers, environmentalists and elected officials. Leaders all said they understand the need for land protection, specifically for Camp Hale.

A view of Camp Hale in Colorado. (Courtesy of EcoFlight)

“Urgency, to me, is the central takeaway from today’s conversation,” Neguse, in whose district Camp Hale sits, said. “We’ve got to get this done while we have these incredible 10th Mountain Division veterans who are still with us to share in this legacy.”

Despite opposition from Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert — who called it a “400,000 acre land grab” — Bennet said he thinks there is strong bipartisan support for the CORE Act, especially among Coloradans.

“I expect there will always be criticism from people who don’t have an appreciation for the importance of public lands in our state, but that’s certainly not most Democrats and Independents and I don’t think it’s Republicans either,” he said.

Vilsack’s participation in the event was part of a two-day visit to Colorado. On Wednesday he and Bennet were scheduled to visit a farm in Palisade where they planned to tout the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law Tuesday, particularly its provisions that support agriculture and healthy forests.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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