CO’s CORE Act: 400,000 Acres with as Many Adventures

Fall foliage in the Spraddle Creek unit of the proposed Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act. Photo Credit: Mason Cummings/TWS.

The most widely supported and comprehensive attempt in over a decade to protect Colorado’s public lands is making its way through the legislative process. At the Outdoor Retailer show in January 2019, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO-02) introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act, or the CORE Act for short. The bill brings four longstanding, locally built campaigns into one incredible Colorado lands package. All told, the CORE Act will protect approximately 400,000 acres of Colorado’s iconic public lands across four varied landscapes.
The Conservation Alliance has a long history of supporting efforts to protect the Continental Divide, the San Juans, and the Thompson Divide. Since 2009 we’ve awarded grants to Colorado-based organizations like Conservation Colorado, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Thompson Divide Coalition for their grassroots work. We enthusiastically endorse CORE Act, you can read our endorsement letter here.
What’s in the CORE ACT?
The Continental Divide and Camp Hale are located within the White River National Forest, the most-visited national forest in the United States. The CORE Act will designate new wilderness and special management areas, as well as the country’s first National Historic Landscape, preserving the history, wildlife, clean water, and booming outdoor recreation economy in the area. Click here for a map of the proposed protections.

Protecting Recreation in the Continental Divide Area.
The Spraddle Creek Wilderness addition will provide awesome backcountry opportunities, just outside of Vail. The Tenmile Wilderness and Recreation Management Areas will preserve existing exquisite backcountry ski terrain and mountain biking around the Tenmile Mountain area just outside of Frisco, and south near Blue River.

Mount Sneffels, Uncompahgre National Forest. Photo: Jon Mullen

The bill will protect iconic mountains in the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests of southwestern Colorado by expanding popular wilderness areas and including lands that were left out of initial wilderness designations. Click here for a map of the proposed protections.

Protecting Recreation in the San Juans.
The bill will protect backcountry skiing near Lizard Head Pass just outside of Telluride, with the creation of the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area. It would also expand existing mountain biking near the town of Ophir. Wilderness additions in the famous Mt. Sneffels 14er would protect world class hiking and climbing, while at the same time allowing for access to the Liberty Bell/Hardrock 100 trail.

The San Juan Mountains

The bill will protect the Thompson Divide in the White River National Forest by ensuring that no future oil, gas, or mining development occurs on 200,000 acres of rugged, wild lands. The Thompson Divide divides the exploited lands near the I-70 corridor from the areas around the Roaring Fork Valley. The towns of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale depend on the watershed for clean water. This bill will protect historic ranching and agriculture, outdoor recreation opportunities, and the state’s largest intact aspen grove along Kebler Pass. Click here for a map of the proposed protections.

Permanently protecting recreation in the Thompson Divide means protecting recreation for all sorts of adventures. The sport climbers are drawn to the Thompson Creek Fins near Carbondale, the hunters flock to this area and purchase more than 20,000 big game hunting licenses each year, and the snowmobilers traverse more than 250 miles of the Sunlight to Powderhorn trail system.

Hart Finn Climbing Area. Thompson Divide, CO.

The Curecanti National Recreation Area, which will be formally established by Congress as a unit of the National Park system, includes an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities including boating, hiking, and fishing. As a series of three reservoirs along the once wild Gunnison River, today’s reservoirs are a destination for salmon and trout fishing. Click here for a map of the proposed protections.

Curecanti National Recreation Area

So what’s next?!
The bill passed through the House Committee on Natural Resources a couple of weeks ago and is now prime for a vote on the House floor. It’s journey to the finish line is far from over… Senator Gardner (R-CO) and Congressman Tipton’s (R-CO-3) support are critical to the effort’s success. From Colorado? Join us in asking Senator Gardner and your Congressperson to work in a bipartisan fashion to make the CORE Act law this Congress.