The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul takes an informative look today at a new “public lands” bill introduced by Republican Rep. Scott Tipton and expected to be supported by Sen. Cory Gardner–but rather than cheering this new legislation, the effort is raising questions about the true motives of Tipton and Gardner among public lands supporters:
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Cortez Republican, took issue with parts of the omnibus Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy Act — or CORE Act — brought earlier this year by his Democratic colleagues from Colorado. It aims to protect thousands of acres of public land with new wilderness designations and by limiting oil and gas drilling.
And on Wednesday he unveiled a draft public lands proposal of his own: the Colorado Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act, or Colorado REC Act.
As Paul explains, the process of passing a public lands bill is long and frequently unsuccessful in today’s Washington, and when such bills do succeed it’s usually only because they enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support. That means a competing measure from Republicans up against a bill supported by Democrats is more likely to ensure that no bill passes than any other outcome.
And in the case of the “Colorado REC Act,” there’s plenty for Democrats–or anyone actually concerned about protection of public lands–could object to:
The CORE Act calls for roughly 100,000 acres of wilderness, recreation and conservation areas in the White River National Forest along the Continental Divide and would also designate the land around Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division’s roots are, as a national historic landscape.
That’s not part of the Colorado REC Act.
The CORE Act also has clauses withdrawing about 200,000 acres of public lands along the Thompson Divide from being open to oil and gas drilling. The measure also would create a program to lease and generate energy from excess methane in coal mines in the North Fork Valley.
Again, those are not components of the Colorado REC Act.
In other words, some of the biggest public lands protection priorities in the state are omitted from Tipton and Gardner’s bill! To be sure, Democrats are still talking hopefully about working with Republicans, and if both sides are able to make a deal we don’t want to prejudice their efforts. But with this weaker legislation now in the mix, the two most likely outcomes are a scaling back of the original goals to win back Republican support or (more likely) nothing passes at all until after the 2020 elections.
Either of those outcomes would be “wins” for Tipton and Gardner’s political benefactors.
As for Colorado’s public lands, which everybody claims they care about, not so much.