Any spare time I had this fall was spent outside in the mountains and mesas, getting another dose of that wide-open majestic landscape that defines Colorado’s Western Slope.
Living in Grand Junction, I’m surrounded by public lands, a priceless asset of American heritage and identity. It’s an exciting time for the great outdoors of our state as the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (CORE Act) finally passed the House of Representatives on Thursday in Washington, D.C., and is on its way to become the law of the land.
If passed, the CORE Act would stand as a testament to collaboration and protect a diverse mosaic of public lands; the most robust public lands bill in over two decades.
Needless to say, I was baffled to learn that among the myriad dramatic political issues currently consuming the country, our Colorado public lands bill had suddenly become a national priority for the White House.
In a recent statement, the Trump administration said the executive branch would promptly veto the bill should it reach the president’s desk. Why does the administration suddenly want weigh in so decisively on an issue that enjoys comfortable statewide support?
Congressman Scott Tipton avoided taking a position on the bill until now. Unsurprisingly, he opposes the CORE Act and Trump is probably promising him a favor in exchange for his partisan duty.
Tipton’s colleague Sen. Cory Gardner following in his stead, is waffling with no sense of leadership on the issue. Further, recent polling shows that Tipton and Gardner are not at all interested in listening to the vast majority of their constituents who support it.
Tipton mentions his discomfort with the provision in the bill blocking future oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area between Paonia and Carbondale, Colorado.
While loyally following the administration’s energy dominance agenda, the unbiased truth is all of the feasible leasing sites have been snatched up — and there’s the fact that the White River National Forest and BLM’s 2015 leasing management plan already closes the Thompson Divide to new leases. Not to mention, the plan is backed by a lawsuit last year, canceling undeveloped leases purchased since 2015 and refunding energy companies.
Ten dedicated years of work have been invested into the multifaceted CORE Act, engaging local businesses, sportsmen, conservationists, ranchers, recreation groups and county governments.
Overall, the bill provides assurance diverse and productive landscapes are preserved for ranchers, hunters, wildlife and recreation; collectively supporting a vibrant economy and culture for Colorado’s future.
Tipton was recently quoted saying, “We haven’t had the inclusion of some voices that need to be heard.” It is no coincidence that the White House selected the same rhetoric in a statement, claiming that local sentiment has not been adequately taken into account.
Look no further than the substance of the bill to find this simply isn’t true. Sure, the legislation creates more wilderness areas; but it also explicitly protects hunting, private property rights, agriculture, tangible mechanisms to lower taxpayer costs, plans to support workers forced out of the oil and gas industry stay economically afloat, honors military service, and addresses water security.
Tipton and Gardner have effectively proved they lack the substance sincere collaboration requires to pass thoughtful legislation representing the landscape that defines all Coloradans.
For many, today’s political landscape easily frays our sanity and inspire a strong urge to get away from it all, and into the mountains of Colorado. It is still relatively easy to find solitude and quiet places to balance hectic schedules and ceaseless responsibilities.
If you’re like me and enjoy our public lands, then you deserve leaders who support the CORE Act. Just remember the bill wasn’t written by a group of staffers in Washington D.C. It was written here at home, under the mountains and mesas, night after night, and in communities across the state.
Neighbors sat together working out their differences — as they always have — with the intention to craft proactive legislation for the future health and productivity of Colorado.
The CORE Act represents every aspect of what makes this state great — and it would be a shame to ruin this opportunity based on nonsensical political pageantry and institutionalized binary perceptions of environmental protection.
Cody M. Perry is co-founder of Rig To Flip, a media company specializing in stories about the Colorado River Basin’s land, water and people that inspire stewardship, awareness and engagement. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.
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