Public lands bill provides protection on 200,000 acres of Thompson Divide
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The U.S. House approved Friday a massive public lands protection bill that has implications for the Roaring Fork Valley.
The legislation packaged together eight separate public lands bills that were approved by the House but not acted on by the U.S. Senate last year. If approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate this session, the legislation would protect nearly 3 million acres in Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona.
The measure, known as the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat. It encompasses the Colorado Wilderness Act and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, known as CORE. Combined, they provide protections on about 1 million acres in Colorado.
Parts of the package would expand the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, create new wilderness in the Assignation Ridge area southwest of Carbondale and withdraw lands from the Thompson Divide area outside of Carbondale from future oil and gas development and mining.
Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, a longtime advocate for the CORE Act, praised the vote Friday.
“Whether people are hunters, mountain bikers, county commissioners or ranchers, we know that Coloradans, especially in the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts, support the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act in overwhelming numbers,” Will Roush, Wilderness Workshop’s executive director, said in a statement.
The CORE Act would preserve roughly 400,000 acres of public lands, including 200,000 acres in Thompson Divide. Rancher Judy Fox-Perry has worked for over a decade for the protections.
“Whether it’s hunters, hikers, snowmobilers, mountain bikers, skiers and other recreationists, or ranchers with the deep roots of local families, our community is deeply unified for the preservation of the Thompson Divide,” Fox-Perry said in a statement. “I’m excited to see the CORE Act pass the House of Representatives for a third time and look forward to the Senate passage of this once-in-a-generation bill.”
The Roaring Fork Valley’s representative voted against the package. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Silt, said in a statement the bill was a “Democrat land grab that would lock up 510,000 acres of Colorado’s Third Congressional District.”
She labeled the bill an “extreme package that will kill jobs, limit outdoor recreation, prevent public access, exacerbate wildfire challenges, stifle responsible energy production and lockup 3 million acres of public land.”
Boebert, who was elected in November, complained that her office was not consulted before the vote.
In addition to protecting about 1 million acres in both Colorado and Arizona, the package would conserve 821,000 acres in California and 132,000 acres in Washington. Half of the 3 million acres would be designated as wilderness, the highest level of protection.
Its passage comes just weeks after President Joe Biden announced a goal to conserve at least 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030 to help combat climate change.
Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both Democrats, vowed in a joint statement Friday to work until the Senate passes the bill. No vote is currently scheduled on the measure in the senate.
“Not even a month after the introduction of the CORE Act, we are thrilled that our bill has passed the House for the third time,” Bennet said in the statement. “The widespread support for the CORE Act across Colorado speaks for itself. Now that the House has done its job, Senator Hickenlooper and I won’t stop working until this bill passes the Senate and is signed into law.”