Bill Would Place 400,000 Acres of Colorado Off-Limits to Energy Production

Published March 25, 2019

A bill under consideration in Congress would re-designate more than 400,000 acres of existing federal land in Colorado in ways that would limit access, mining, and oil and gas production.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act would designate 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, precluding motorized access; prohibit mining on thousands of acres of federal land where it is currently allowed; and prohibit oil and gas development on more than 200,000 federal acres where it is now legal, among other provisions.

Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) and announced in January, the CORE Act combines four bills previously introduced over the past 10 years: the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act; the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act; the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act; and the Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act.

For ‘Patagonia-Wearing … Elites’?

This legislation is driven by out-of-state interests, not the desires of most Coloradans, says Amy Oliver Cooke, executive vice president of the Independence Institute.

“With the CORE Act, Sen. Bennet and Rep. Neguse prove they will put themselves and wealthy environmental groups ahead of working Coloradans,” said Cooke.

“Designating thousands of acres off-limits for any future energy development will drive up the cost of energy and says to the men and women in the energy industry in Colorado, ‘We don’t trust you to be good stewards.’

“Who do they trust?” Cooke asks, answering, “the handful of Patagonia-wearing, able-bodied elites who can afford the trek into areas off-limits for so many others.”

Cooke says CORE is part of Bennet’s effort to burnish his environmental credentials in anticipation of a 2020 presidential bid.

“Sen. Bennet is playing to his unreasonable environmental base ahead of his 2020 presidential run,” said Cooke.

Development and Ecology

The history of the Thompson Divide shows people can extract oil and gas while protecting the environment, says Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance.

“There is historical oil and natural gas development in the Thompson Divide area dating back to 1947,” said Sgamma. “The fact that development coexisted with stunning landscapes considered pristine enough for wilderness designation is further proof closing areas to oil and natural gas development is unnecessary.

“Sen. Bennet buys into a false choice from the environmental lobby between developing the energy that all Americans own or protecting the land, when the reality is we don’t need to cut off economic opportunity and jobs to protect the land,” Sgamma said. “We can have both.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.