Just days into Colorado’s 2020 legislative session, Coloradans are asking how our elected officials will continue to take bold, progressive action to tackle the biggest issues facing our state.
As a member of the Senate majority party, you would expect Senator Cory Gardner to have the power to follow through on his promises to Coloradans to protect our climate, lands, and natural resources. Instead, Sen. Gardner fell short and failed to deliver key environmental funding while finding ways to help carbon polluters.
Despite Sen. Gardner’s ramped-up environmental rhetoric, a brief look at the final months of 2019 shows that Gardner’s record is full of hot air. He has much to improve in the New Year.
Depleting Conservation Funding
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a critical program for funding land protection, access for hunting and fishing, trail maintenance, and other programs, but this funding was allowed to expire in 2018 when Republicans held majorities in the House and the Senate.
At no cost to taxpayers, LWCF collects as much as $900 million annually from offshore oil and gas royalties. But because Republican Congressional leaders like Sen. Gardner allowed the program to expire, none of that funding has been going to protect and invest in national parks and public lands across the nation. Sen. Gardner spent most of this year promising he would clean up the mess he made by delivering full, permanent funding for LWCF.
Sadly, under Sen. Gardner’s watch, the Senate passed a year-end $1.4 trillion spending bill that fell short for conservation funding, failing to approve over $400 million of the $900 million allotted for LWCF projects for the next year, and only allocating the remaining funds for just a single year.
Dismantling the Bureau of Land Management
When it comes to managing our public lands, Sen. Gardner tied himself to an Interior Department plan to relocate the headquarters of Bureau of Land Management—the agency that oversees oil, gas, and coal leasing and permitting on millions of acres of public lands—to Grand Junction, Colorado. It quickly became apparent that the move was not all it was cracked up to be.
Sen. Gardner, who labeled himself the “chief architect of the plan,” has long-touted the local economic benefits of moving up to 400 BLM staffers out West and the conservation benefit of having BLM leadership closer to the lands they manage.
After the initial relocation announcement, details began to emerge about how devastating the plan will be for the agency. More than 80 percent of BLM officials who have been forced to relocate are expected to resign rather than uproot their lives, and Interior officials will only be moving approximately 40 jobs to the new headquarters. Those that do relocate face pay cuts. Many other D.C. positions will be scattered through the West. It turns out the 27 staff members forced to relocate to Grand Junction will share an office building with oil and gas companies and industry executives.
Dismantling the agency and moving career leadership positions away from Congress will allow political appointees at the Interior Department to approve drilling and mining projects on public lands. The plan received widespread criticism from former BLM career staff, and prompted an investigation from the Government Accountability Office.
Sen. Gardner promised significant economic benefit to the Grand Junction community, and that this move would be beneficial for the management and conservation of public land in the West. However, his words do not match the results. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel summed it up well in their reaction after the details of the move emerged:
“A day after feeling like this was a game-changer for Grand Junction, the letdown is palpable. We’re stuck between feeling grateful that Grand Junction will be known as the BLM’s Western Headquarters and frustrated that such a distinction has been hollowed out to its barest impact… It doesn’t help that much of the rest of the country thinks that this is a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle any conservation-oriented aspects of the agency in service to President Trump’s energy dominance agenda.”
Cutting Clean Energy Investments
As Colorado makes significant strides moving towards a clean-energy economy, federal investment has failed to keep up.
In April, Sen. Gardner touted that he cosponsored a bill that would provide tax credits for battery and energy storage—a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to bolstering a clean energy grid in states like Colorado and combatting our dependence on fossil fuels. The bipartisan legislation would have provided tax breaks for investments in developing grid-scale energy storage to incentivize wind and solar production. In the long run, the energy storage investments would have paid for themselves through grid improvements. A similar tax incentive structure significantly drove down the prices of solar panels in recent years.
Again, Sen. Gardner failed to deliver.
Although the year-end funding bill included $39 billion worth of provisions that would extend or establish tax breaks for different sectors, tax incentives for clean-energy storage were not included in the final spending package.
Coloradans expect our leaders to fight for our climate and public lands and stand up to corporate donors and the fossil fuel industry. Sadly, Sen. Gardner’s environmental promises to his constituents don’t match up with his actions in Washington.
Sen. Gardner, please: as you look to the New Year, consider a resolution to represent Colorado values in the U.S. Senate.
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To me, public lands stewardship means dismantling barriers so that all people may access the protected landscapes in perpetuity. Which is why I support the CORE Act.
Sportsmen, veterans, recreation advocates, outdoor businesses and conservationists respond to historic legislation to protect 400,000 acres of public lands
DENVER, CO — Conservation, recreation and wildlife groups across Colorado welcomed a vote in Congress today that helped move important public lands legislation from the U.S. House of Representatives on to the U.S. Senate. The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (CORE Act) is needed to safeguard more than 400,000 acres in the Centennial State and ensure future generations have access to the state’s wildest lands and historic areas, like Camp Hale.
Colorado Representatives Joe Neguse, Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jason Crow joined the majority in a bipartisan 227 – 182 vote for passage. Representatives Doug Lamborn, Ken Buck and Scott Tipton voted against, despite the recently released polling indicating that strong majorities of Rep. Tipton’s constituents support the measure and strong local support from counties and towns.
As the bill moves to the U.S. Senate, it is more important than ever that Colorado’s statewide elected officials stand together and support the CORE Act. Sen. Cory Gardner, who has not yet taken a position on this important Colorado legislation, should join Sen. Michael Bennet in sponsoring the bill.
The following are quotes from a number of organizations and stakeholders who have been working for decades to advance conservation efforts in Colorado, including protections for 400,000 acres in the San Juans, Thompson Divide, Continental Divide, Curecanti, and the historic WWII training grounds at Camp Hale:
“Coloradans love our lands and have been working for years to protect these popular, iconic and historic landscapes. Thank you to our environmental champions — Representatives Neguse, DeGette, Crow and Perlmutter — for advancing the CORE Act today. Senator Gardner should join Senator Bennet in supporting this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to safeguard nearly half a million acres of Colorado’s public lands.” — Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado
“Protecting Camp Hale and the surrounding area is way to honor generations of veterans, from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom. Our public lands and the freedoms they represent define our nation, and I fought to defend that. Today I continue that fight by working to preserve Camp Hale and I hope Senator Gardner will join me and my fellow veterans.” — Bradley Noone, 10th Mountain Division Veteran.
“As a small business owner in the hunting community, I support the CORE act as a needed step in protecting our public lands in perpetuity. The next generation of hunters will have access to Wilderness Areas rich in biodiversity. This will enable a vital connection to our Colorado lands.” — Mahting Putelis, Co-Founder & CEO of Hunt to Eat
“This vote is the culmination of a decade of community dialogue and compromise. With this milestone, it’s time for the Senate to have a hearing on this bill and move it forward.” — Scott Fetchenhier, San Juan County Commissioner, Owner and Operator of Fetch’s Mining and Mercantile Company in Silverton
“We have been working to permanently protect the Thompson Divide for over a decade, and today’s vote is a significant step toward the finish line. The Thompson Divide has galvanized our community like no other issue, and we are grateful to Representative Neguse and Senator Bennet for championing this landscape that is so crucial to our economic livelihood and way of life. We hope Senator Gardner will join us and Senator Bennet to get this across the finish line in the Senate.” — Curtis Kaufman, Board President, Thompson Divide Coalition
“Sportsmen and women celebrate the passage of the CORE Act in the U.S. House, and we thank Representative Neguse and Senator Bennet for their leadership on this bill. There’s a direct link from large swathes of land, protected from development, to healthy populations of game and fish. Wildlife and fish, in turn, attract hunters and anglers like me who help support our local economies. Now, we urge Senator Gardner to co-sponsor the CORE Act to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate.” — Craig Grother, Regional Director, Central Western Slope, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
“As an outfitter guide and storefront business owner, I couldn’t be more pleased with today’s passage of the CORE Act in the House. My guide service operates in several counties benefiting from the protection of wild landscapes and rivers in this legislation. I extend my deep appreciation to Representative Neguse and Senator Bennet and call on Senator Gardner to consider the opinion of the majority of his constituents and co-sponsor the CORE Act. The CORE Act is good for rural economies, communities, recreation, and natural resources.” — Tim Patterson, owner, RIGS Fly Shop & Guide Service
“Coloradans love getting outside and getting after it on public lands. Many of us identify as outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists, and in western Colorado a majority support additional wilderness. Patagonia thanks Congressman Neguse and Senator Bennet for their leadership on this legislation and urges Senator Gardner to continue a long bipartisan tradition to support public lands in Colorado and to vote yes on the CORE Act.” — Mark Stevens, district environmental manager, Patagonia
“As a Ridgway resident for over four decades and a local rancher, I applaud the passage of the CORE Act in the House. Colorado’s public lands are essential to my family as our grazing permit is located within the Whitehouse Addition. I rely on healthy and protected lands and waters for my business to succeed, as do my fellow ranchers who graze livestock on the Thompson Divide. In addition, both my father and uncle trained at Camp Hale as part of the storied 10th Mountain Division. Preserving Camp Hale honors veterans and their families and protects a landscape that constitutes a piece of our country’s cultural and military history. Thank you Representative Neguse and Senator Bennet! I encourage Senator Gardner to co-sponsor the CORE Act in the Senate.” — Liza Clarke, Owner, Ferguson Family Ranches
“The CORE Act really gets at the core of Colorado values – protecting critical waterways and habitats, providing inspiring outdoor recreation opportunities like the Continental Divide Trail, and honoring the unique history of the American West. Today’s passage of the CORE Act through the House should be a proud moment for the many Coloradans who have worked to protect the Continental Divide and other invaluable landscapes for more than a decade. We are grateful for the leadership of Representative Neguse and Senator Bennet in moving the CORE Act forward, and hope to see Senator Gardner join them in this crucial effort to protect some of Colorado’s most special places. — Teresa Martinez, Executive Director, Continental Divide Trail Coalition
“Eagle County applauds the passage of the CORE Act in the House of Representatives today. This important public lands bill includes the designation of one of the County’s Crown Jewels, Camp Hale, as a National Historic Landscape. The heroism of the 10th Mountain Division troops and their contributions to the skiing world are memorialized in this Act. The CORE Act also preserves important wildlife habitat and environment in Eagle and Summit Counties. This bipartisan effort has included local input over many years and we are hopeful that this work will result in passage in the Senate as well.” — Kathy Chandler-Henry, Commissioner, Eagle County
“We are thrilled with today’s House vote in favor of the CORE Act. Local communities like Ouray County have been working to advance these protections for decades, and we couldn’t ask for a better piece of legislation. The CORE Act protects critical wildlife migration corridors and habitat, valuable watersheds, and unspoiled wild places which all benefit our rural economies. We applaud the leadership from Congressman Neguse and Senator Bennet, and we urge Senator Gardner to join Senator Bennet as a co-sponsor to pass the CORE Act in the Senate in the 116th Congress”. — Robyn Cascade, Northern San Juan Chapter Leader, Great Old Broads for Wilderness
“Today the US House of Representatives affirmed what folks in western Colorado know, protecting the Thompson Divide and Continental Divide landscapes is the right thing to do. For over a decade Wilderness Workshop and local communities have advocated for the protection of these special places, most recently as part of the CORE Act. This legislation is the culmination of years of engagement, discussion and compromise among a diverse and bi-partisan set of stakeholders who have come together to work on a common goal. Now that the House has acted and listened to the voices of locals, I hope our delegation can work together, just as our communities have, to ensure that Thompson Divide and Continental Divide are permanently protected.” — Will Roush, Executive Director, Wilderness Workshop
“Members of Ridgway Ouray Community Council (ROCC) have spent endless hours over the last decade collaborating with diverse stakeholders to support the proposal for the expansion of the Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area. We are pleased and excited to have the San Juan Mountains proposal included in the CORE Act. The CORE Act recognizes the need to protect the natural resources located on our public lands while simultaneously benefiting our local economy.” — Jim Stephenson, Public Lands Chair, Ridgway-Ouray Community Council
“We’ve been waiting 40 years to complete wilderness protection of Mount Sneffels and some of the most spectacular wildlands in the San Juan Mountains. We greatly appreciate Rep. Joe Neguse’s leadership, and we await Sen. Cory Gardner finally taking up the baton to move wilderness protections in the San Juans across the finish line in the Senate.” — Mark Pearson, Executive Director, San Juan Citizens Alliance
“The CORE Act represents a diverse set of beloved and ecologically important landscapes across Colorado. Today’s House passage of the CORE Act is a huge cause for celebration for our community in Southwest Colorado, which has been working for over a decade to protect the iconic vistas of our San Juan Mountains. We are grateful for the vision and leadership of Congressman Neguse and Senator Bennet for recognizing the value of the places that we hold dear, and working to protect our health, our economy, and our future. — Lexi Tuddenham, Executive Director, Sheep Mountain Alliance
“Colorado deserves the protections afforded by the CORE Act. Thanks to Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse for driving the bill forward. The climbing community deeply appreciates the efforts of many stakeholders and partners to protect iconic Colorado landscapes, including Camp Hale, for future generations. We are hopeful that Senator Gardner will help move the bill through the Senate.” — Erik Murdock, Policy Director, Access Fund
“The CORE Act demonstrates that protected public lands are our common ground. It strengthens a growing recreation-based economy, and it protects important recreation assets and wildlife habitat for future generations. We applaud Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse for championing this important bill, and hope today’s passage in the House of Representatives is only the beginning.” — Kirsten Blackburn, Program Manager, The Conservation Alliance
“Coloradans love public lands and want to see more of them protected especially in the face of a changing climate and the nature crisis. Conservationists, ranchers and sportsmen around Colorado celebrate the vote by the House and turn our attention to the Senate. Senator Cory Gardner is the only Senator from Colorado in the last half-century who has not sponsored wilderness legislation. As Colorado’s only member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, it’s time for Senator Gardner to heed his constituents’ calls and work with Senator Bennet to get the CORE Act across the finish line.” — Jim Ramey, Colorado state director for The Wilderness Society.
“Today’s vote marks a major step for the future of public lands in Colorado. Our national parks, wilderness areas and other public lands are cherished for their natural beauty, cultural heritage, and the recreational and economic benefits they bring to local communities. With local stakeholder support at the forefront of this process, the CORE Act achieves meaningful protections for these lands now and for future generations. We are thankful to Congressman Neguse for his leadership in championing this legislation and urge the Senate to take up the bill in short order.” —Tracy Coppola, Colorado Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association
“Among the thousands of acres of precious wilderness that the CORE Act would protect is Camp Hale, an important site in U.S. and Sierra Club history. Camp Hale is where the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, including Sierra Club’s first executive director, David Brower, trained to fight Nazi Germany in the Italian Alps in World War II. As a combat veteran of the 10th Mountain myself, I know how important it is to protect this beautiful and significant land from logging and fossil fuel extraction.” –– Rob Vessels, Sierra Club Military Outdoors Campaign Manager
“Today’s vote in favor of the CORE Act is celebrated by all who have worked tirelessly to protect the San Juan Mountain landscapes vital to the communities of Western Colorado. Local voices have crafted this legislation over the course of a decade and we appreciate the leadership of Congressman Neguse for moving the vision of the CORE Act forward. Vibrant rural economies depend upon the careful stewardship of our wildlands and we ask Senator Gardner to join Senator Bennet as a co-sponsor to pass the CORE Act in the Senate.” — Steve Allerton, President, Western Colorado Alliance
“Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship is very pleased to endorse the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. Preservation of the wide variety of lands represented in the CORE Act shows that Conservation is truly Conservative. This was confirmed by a recent poll of Colorado’s third Congressional District that found two-thirds of voters support the designations in the CORE Act and an overwhelming 85% of Republicans surveyed said that public lands are important to the local economy.” — Steve Bonowski, Colorado-based board member, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship
“The CORE Act represents a modern, collaborative, community-driven approach to bike-friendly public land protection and IMBA is excited with the progress this bill is making in Congress. For over a decade, IMBA has worked with local mountain bike groups and alongside many conservation and business partners to develop the diverse protections included in the bill. As a result, the CORE Act will not only preserve our public lands but will protect the treasured, high-alpine bike rides, and ensure future mountain bike trail opportunities are possible in areas managed for high quality recreation.” — Dave Wiens, Executive Director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA)
“The AAC strongly supports the CORE Act. The bill defends countless outdoor recreation opportunities, safeguards water resources, and preserves key public lands. The protections in the Act also offer the benefit of climate change mitigation through land conservation. Thank you, Senator Bennet and Congressman Neguse, for championing this important conservation measure. The climbing community is hopeful that the bill will successfully and swiftly navigate the Senate and protect important pieces of the climbing landscape.” — Taylor Luneau, Policy Manager, American Alpine Club (AAC)
Joint ad pushes Sen. Gardner to stand up for Colorado’s clean air and climate, not corporate polluters
DENVER — This week, Conservation Colorado—the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization—and the grassroots organization Rocky Mountain Values launched a new television commercial that pushes Sen. Cory Gardner to support policy and funding to protect our environment and clean air. The ad comes two weeks after Senator Gardner’s recent vote that will repeal important federal progress on clean air policy and reflects the growing frustration that Colorado families have with politicians like Senator Cory Gardner, who acts in favor of special interests.
The effort is a part of Conservation Colorado’s new seven-figure accountability effort urging Senator Gardner to stand up for Coloradans who want clean air and a healthy climate, not for big corporate polluters. In addition to the new television commercial, the campaign also includes on-the-ground organizing in Aurora, Fort Collins, Greeley and Pueblo and other paid communications to educate Coloradans about Gardner’s record to get him to vote in favor of environmental protection.
“Senator Cory Gardner told us he’d protect Colorado’s clean air but went to Washington and helped dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to combat air pollution,” said Kelly Nordini, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “Colorado is at the forefront of climate impacts, and our state is a national leader in addressing the climate crisis. Unfortunately, Senator Gardner’s record shows he has been more willing to do what special interests and lobbyists in Washington want than to listen to his constituents back home. Senator Gardner must step up to change that.”
“Coloradans, like all Americans, value clean air,” said Alvina Vasquez, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Values. “Less than two weeks ago Senator Gardner took a vote to block the Clean Power Plan, which would have stopped corporate polluters from dirtying our air—proving once again that he will continue taking votes that hurt Colorado. We hoped that Senator Gardner would stand by his promise to protect our environment, but instead, he continues his pattern of broken promises and bad votes. We need Senator Gardner, and all of our elected officials, to prioritize Coloradans’ clean air now. ”
In Washington, Sen. Gardner helped dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to combat air pollution, allowing power plants to burn coal waste without complying with clean air rules. And while Coloradans’ health suffered as a result, Sen. Gardner raked in the cash—including more than $1.4 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. That investment continues to pay dividends for big corporate polluters. And just this month, Sen. Gardner voted to allow Trump’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan to move forward, paving the way for coal plants to stay open longer and blocking progress for wind and solar power—energy sources that Coloradans overwhelmingly support.
“Frontline communities can’t write big checks like big polluters, but we can organize,” said Juan Gallegos, director of Protégete. “Latinx Coloradans deserve a seat at the table and for Senator Gardner to listen to us, vote with us, and put Colorado on a path to a clean energy future.”
CARBONDALE, COLORADO – Today, Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest statewide environmental advocacy organization, announced the opening of a new Roaring Fork Valley office based in Carbondale to serve this ecologically unique and politically important region.
Central Mountains Organizer Erin Riccio released the following statement in response:
“As Conservation Colorado’s organizer in the region, I’m excited to bring the voices of my neighbors along the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys to the State Capitol and other decision-making spaces. Together we can fight climate change, protect our lands, waterways, and wildlife, and stand up against powerful interests.
“Calling this area ‘home’ is a dream come true.”
The Roaring Fork Valley is already a conservation leader, including:
- The only municipalities in our state — Glenwood Springs and Aspen — to be powered 100 percent by renewable energy;
- Cancellation of 18 oil and gas leases along the Thompson Divide, an important landscape renowned for its hunting and recreation opportunities;
- Creation of the Crystal River Management Plan to better manage water usage and enhance the ecological integrity of the river; and,
- A goal to electrify one-third of the Roaring Fork Valley Transportation Authority’s bus fleet.
“I’m thrilled that Conservation Colorado has established a permanent presence in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Jacque Whitsitt, the Mayor of Basalt. “Their focus on state and national policy will be a great asset to the robust conservation community that already calls this area home.”
Riccio, a fluent Spanish-speaker, will work with local citizens and leaders to capitalize on this progress, including:
- Conserving our public lands that support a high quality of life and booming outdoor economy by passing the CORE Act;
- Protecting our unique communities from the health and safety hazards of oil and gas activities through continued engagement with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission;
- Addressing climate change by implementing the Climate Action Plan to reduce statewide carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050; and,
- Ensuring our rivers are healthy and flowing with full funding of the Colorado Water Plan.
The Central Mountains Region is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. And the issues it faces are as diverse as the landscapes it spans.
Incredible wildlands are in jeopardy of being developed for oil, gas, and mineral extraction by the BLM – the very federal agency who manages them.
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