The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed (on Feb. 26) the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act (HR 803), which aims to preserve some three million acres across Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona. The legislation is a collection of nine separate public lands bills the House approved last year–including Rep Diana DeGette’s Colorado Wilderness Act (CWA) and Rep. Joe Neguse’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act.
“I’m stoked to announce that the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act and Public Lands Act (H.R. 803) passed the House … and is moving full steam ahead to the Senate,” said Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President and CEO Land Tawney. “This legislative package contains nine different bills that benefit the wild places we all value. Put together, these bills will establish 1.49 million acres of new wilderness, designate over 1,000 river miles as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and make sure that an additional 1.3 million acres remain intact for recreational use. This would not have happened without boots on the ground leadership and represents a huge potential win for backcountry outdoorsmen and women like you and me.”
More specifically, regarding the CORE Act portion of HR 803, Bradley Noone—a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan—said he supports CORE’s goal of protecting important watersheds along the Eagle and Roaring Fork rivers, along with the National Historic Landscape designation of Camp Hale. “Camp Hale is extremely important to protect, because much of the nation’s–and specifically Colorado’s–ski industry stemmed from World War II veterans who were trained at Camp Hale,” said Noone.
Justin Cross, northern Colorado regional director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, said CORE would boost the state’s outdoor recreation economy, which generated $62 billion and a half-million jobs in 2017. A 2018 poll found that 96% of Coloradans see the outdoor recreation industry as important to the state’s economic future. Colorado College's 2021 Conservation in the West survey found that 81% of Coloradans support a national goal of protecting 30 percent of America’s lands and oceans by 2030.
According to the U. S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), GDP for the outdoor recreation economy grew after inflation by 3.9 percent in 2017, faster than the 2.4 percent growth of the overall U.S. economy. Real gross output, compensation and employment all grew faster in outdoor recreation than for the economy as a whole. The outdoor recreation economy in the U.S. is “bigger than mining and bigger than agriculture and on par with broadcasting and telecommunications,” said bureau economist Dirk van Duym.
Unfortunately, two of our U.S. House Reps. are misinformed about the positive economic (and other) impacts of HR 803. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) incorrectly stated that this bill would “work against local economies” and is a “threat to … local economies.” Meanwhile, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) called the bill a “Democrat land grab.”
Perhaps they’re not aware that the legislation (e.g., the CORE Act) has support from the counties that are included (i.e., Eagle, Summit, San Juan, Ouray, San Miguel, Gunnison, Pitkin) and Garfield County has supported the component of the bill within their jurisdiction (the Thompson Divide).
The CORE Act is a result of a decade-long collaborative process, drawing the input of counties, businesses, ranchers, outdoor recreation groups, conservationists and sportsmen to protect—through a variety of designations—our shared public lands. In addition, as Rep Diana DeGette (D-CO) said about the Colorado Wilderness Act (CWA), “It’s been vetted, it’s been revetted, it’s been revetted again. It has strong reasons for designation … and it has strong local support.”
Colorado’s hunters and anglers agree. HR 803 will serve to protect and perpetuate our robust outdoor recreation economy by ensuring our great public lands estate remains intact. In addition, it honors our World War II veterans, America’s greatest generation. Now is the time to push this bill across the finish line.
David Lien is a former Air Force officer and co-chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He’s the author of “Hunting for Experience: Tales of Hunting & Habitat Conservation” and during 2014 was recognized by Field & Stream as a “Hero of Conservation.”
 Bryce Oates. “States Invest in the Outdoor Recreation by Opening Offices Dedicated to the Sector’s Growth: As the outdoor recreation economies continue to pick up momentum, more states pledge to develop outdoor access with conservation, education and public health in mind.” DailyYonder: 1/28/20.
 Jason Blevins. “Outdoor recreation continues to be a mighty economic force, accounting for $788 billion in 2019: In Colorado, about 3.2% of the economy is derived from recreation. Growth this year indicates the role of recreation as critical to national recovery during the pandemic.” The Colorado Sun: 11/12/20.