Today, Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse announced they are introducing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, the most significant and broadly supported effort to protect Colorado’s public lands in a generation.

This public lands package combines several popular proposals into a single bill that will protect wild places across the state, including:

  • The Continental Divide and Camp Hale in the White River National Forest, the most-visited national forest in the U.S. New wilderness and special management areas, as well as the country’s first National Historic Landscape, will preserve the history, wildlife, clean water, and booming outdoor recreation economy in the area;
  • The iconic mountains in the San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests of southwestern Colorado, by expanding popular wilderness areas and including lands that were left out of initial wilderness designations;
  • The Thompson Divide in the White River National Forest, by ensuring that no future oil, gas, or mining development occurs on its rugged, wild lands. This will protect historic ranching and agriculture, outdoor recreation opportunities, and the state’s largest intact aspen grove along Kebler Pass; and,
  • The Curecanti National Recreation Area, which will be formally established by Congress as a unit of the National Park system, includes an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities including boating, hiking, and fishing.

Together, this bill will protect approximately 400,000 acres of iconic Colorado public lands for future generations.

“Coloradans love our lands and this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse have put together— protecting some of Colorado’s most popular, iconic and historic public lands in a way that is widely supported by locals. We urge the entire Colorado delegation to listen to Coloradans and pass the CORE Act in this Congress.”

  • Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“The CORE Act continues a proud Colorado tradition of protecting our wild lands, clean water and outdoor recreation opportunities for future generations.  This legislation would protect some of the best that Colorado’s public lands have to offer, including pristine watersheds and key wildlife habitat along the Continental Divide, three popular fourteeners, and the rugged mountains and ranching heritage of the Thompson Divide. The CORE Act has something for everyone and all Coloradans stand to benefit. We are thankful for the leadership from Senator Bennet and Representative Neguse in writing the next chapter of Colorado’s proud history of supporting wilderness and public lands.”

  • Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director, The Wilderness Society

“We are grateful for Senator Bennet’s ongoing work to protect public lands in Colorado, and that Representative Neguse is championing these important issues as well. Both of them understand how important these lands are to residents of Colorado and our way of life — as well as people throughout the country who utilize and cherish these public lands.”

  • Will Roush, Executive Director, Wilderness Workshop

“The Colorado Mountain Club is pleased to see the CORE Act protect some of the most iconic landscapes in our state. This legislation protects an array of recreation opportunities —  backcountry skiing in the Ten Mile Range, climbing and mountaineering in the San Juans, mountain biking in Summit County, and hiking and camping along the Gunnison River –- and these designations will ensure that Colorado’s unique outdoor experiences are preserved for future generations.”

  • Julie Mach, Conservation Director, Colorado Mountain Club

“Over the past 10 years, a wide diversity of constituents has hammered out compromise agreements to ensure the future of treasured iconic Colorado landscapes in the San Juan Mountains.  We and other local proponents are tremendously appreciative that Senator Bennet has responded to the call from recreationists, businesses, landowners and local elected officials in Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel counties by sponsoring Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.”

  • Jimbo Buickerood, Lands and Forest Protection Program Manager, San Juan Citizens Alliance

“Considering how long and hard so many people have worked on protections for the San Juan Mountains and the expansion of the Sneffels Wilderness Area itself, it’s rewarding to see Senator Bennet honoring local community’s wishes in introducing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act.  This reflects the consensus reached by citizens, stakeholders, and local elected officials.”

  • Jim Stephenson, Public Lands Chair, Ridgway-Ouray Community Council

“We thank Senator Bennet for his strong leadership in introducing the CORE Act in Congress.  In our area, the lands included for permanent protection include all those in the previously introduced San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill.  In the decade since the bill was first introduced, its boundaries and delineations have been refined to ensure that existing uses are still allowed, while critical areas are protected.”

  • Lexi Tuddenham, Executive Director, Sheep Mountain Alliance

“Colorado hunters, anglers and recreationists have long understood the need to proactively conserve those intact tracts of wildlife habitat and fisheries that sustain our longstanding outdoor traditions.  We appreciate Senator Bennet’s continued leadership to advance legislation in Colorado’s central and southern mountains that would help maintain the opportunities to experience the unique sense of solitude and challenge that our wild public lands and waters provide.  We standby ready to help move this legislation forward.”

  • Tim Brass, State Policy and Field Operations Director, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Resources
Video B-roll for Broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikDq0XHzsWI&feature=youtu.be
Images for Reproduction: https://www.wilderness.org/articles/media-resources/media-resources-colorado-outdoor-recreation-economy-core-act

DENVER — Today, in one of his first major administrative actions, Governor Jared Polis signed an Executive Order that will reduce carbon emissions for Colorado’s transportation sector, the second-largest source of carbon pollution in our state. Governor Polis’ action sets in motion a plan to accelerate large-scale adoption of, and increase consumer choice of, Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) in Colorado.

Additionally, the Executive Order:

  • Creates a transportation electrification workgroup to develop, coordinate, and implement programs and strategies to support widespread transportation electrification.
  • Directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a rule to establish a Colorado Zero Emission Vehicle program.
  • Revises how the state will allocate nearly $70 million from the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” case to focus all remaining, eligible investments on electrification of transportation, including transit buses, school buses and trucks.
  • Orders the Colorado Department of Transportation to develop a ZEV and clean transportation plan to support the widespread deployment of electric vehicles in ways that save energy, reduce congestion and improve our transportation network.

In response to the Governor’s announcement, advocates released the following statements:

“Governor Polis hit a stand-up triple today — cleaner air, more car choices for consumers, and an important first step on climate. We are eager and excited to continue working together to bring nationally leading climate policy to Colorado.” — Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado

“We should not have to choose between clean air and getting to where we need to go. Electric vehicles will cut pollution in a way that will save us money. The cost to fuel an electric vehicle is a third of the cost of filling up at a gas pump and electric vehicles have fewer maintenance costs. We applaud Governor Polis for speeding up our transition to an electric-powered future.” — Danny Katz, Executive Director, Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG)

“Governor Polis is leading on critical environmental issues right out of the gate. By attacking tailpipe pollution he taking on climate change and pushing for cleaner skies for Colorado at the same time. This action is good for the economy, great for the environment and shows Colorado leadership. With the federal government AWOL on all these issues, Colorado is stepping up.” — Noah Long, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

“Colorado is a national leader in fighting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants – but the science is clear that we must also reduce pollution from cars and trucks if we want to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. Governor Polis’ executive order will allow us to leverage Colorado’s increasingly green electricity generation fleet to achieve further and compounding reductions in pollutants from the transportation sector. Governor Polis’ leadership will help our state prepare for growing consumer demand for electric vehicles while cleaning up our air and reducing greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change.”  — Erin Overturf, Clean Energy Program Deputy Director, Western Resource Advocates

“The Colorado Sierra Club applauds Governor Jared Polis for making one of his first actions in office one that addresses the climate crisis in our state. While the federal government goes backward on climate action, Governor Polis showed today that Colorado will charge ahead on solutions to cut pollution from transportation, putting at least one million more electric vehicles on the road by 2030.” — Jim Alexee, Director, Colorado Sierra Club

“It’s already clear that Coloradans are calling for action on climate. Utility providers and municipalities are making bold commitments to protect our environment and now our state government is following suit. Governor Polis’ charge to clean up Colorado’s transportation sector is exactly what communities across Colorado want to protect our health, our air, our environment, and our economy.” — Kelsey Maxwell, Clean Cars Organizer, Environment Colorado

“This executive order is a significant commitment by the new governor to support forward-thinking policies that will advance the adoption of electric vehicles, saving Colorado residents money at the fuel pump, and helping to lower electric rates, all while making our air cleaner and lowering carbon pollution. SWEEP congratulates Governor Polis for this bold action.” — Howard Geller, Executive Director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP)

“By committing to electric vehicles, Colorado is investing in a clean transportation future. We know electric vehicles run cleaner, reducing the pollution that causes climate change—and that advantage is only going to increase as Colorado invests in renewable electricity. We know they’re cheaper to operate and maintain—a driver in the Denver area can save more than $700 a year fueling their car on electricity instead of at the pump. Thanks to Governor Polis, Colorado could join the forward-looking states who are building a strong electric-vehicle market. With smart policies, more Colorado drivers could reap the benefits of electric vehicles.” — Michelle Robinson, Clean Vehicles Program Director, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

“We are thrilled to have Governor Polis joining us here at The Alliance Center to sign this executive order. Colorado has long been a leader in sustainability, and it is encouraging to see our new governor committing to our citizens’ health, to stronger environmental protections and to our clean energy economy.” — Brenna Simmons-St. Onge, Executive Director, The Alliance Center

“Today Governor Polis took an important step forward by announcing his commitment to increase the deployment of electric vehicles and improve Colorado’s readiness for a clean, zero-pollution transportation system. We’re excited about Governor Polis’ vision, and look forward to working with the new administration to accelerate these critical clean technologies while simultaneously rolling up our sleeves to secure the science-based reductions in climate pollution essential to protect Colorado’s environment and its economy.” — Pam Kiely, Senior Director of Regulatory Strategy, Environmental Defense Fund

Today, the Colorado Supreme Court released its ruling on Martinez vs. Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, retaining the status quo of an under-regulated industry.

In response, Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, released the following statement:

“For too long, Coloradans asking for stronger health and safety protections have lost at the legislature, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and in the courts. That needs to change.

“Today’s Martinez decision is yet another reminder that we need to tilt the balance back in favor of Coloradans’ health and safety. With a new administration in place, we look forward to working with Governor Polis, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and legislative leaders to reform this broken system and put our communities first.”

Background on the Case

In 2013, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and several other young Coloradans asked the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to adopt a regulation stating that no drilling permits will be issued without a finding that drilling can occur without impairing Colorado’s air, water, and wildlife and that it does not adversely affect public health. The COGCC denied the request, holding that it lacked legal authority to issue such a rule. In March 2017, the Colorado Court of Appeals set aside the COGCC’s decision. The Court held that state law makes “protection of public health, safety and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources” a prerequisite for approving oil and gas development. While rejecting the COGCC’s legal interpretation, the Court did not address whether the agency should adopt the specific rule language requested by the Martinez plaintiffs. Today, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning the appeal and siding with the COGCC.

DENVER — Today, Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental organization, announced the addition of two senior staff members: Government Affairs Director Katie Belgard and Communications Director Garrett Garner-Wells.

“We’re at a pivotal moment for Colorado, as our pro-conservation legislature and new governor take the reins to steer our state into the future.” said Kelly Nordini, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “With the addition of these two new staff members, we are gearing up to make Colorado a national leader on climate policy.”

Katie Belgard joins the team after nearly a decade working for organized labor and looks forward to bridging the two movements in her new role. She enjoys exploring Colorado on horseback, especially the mountains outside of Redstone.

“This is going to be a big year for Colorado’s air and climate. We all saw voters in November elect leaders across the board who promised to stand up for our air, land, water and communities,” said Belgard. “I am proud to join this powerhouse team in shaping Colorado’s conservation future.”

Garrett Garner-Wells most recently served as State Director of Environment Colorado. In his free time, he likes to rock climb and camp with his son while exploring new places in pursuit of his goal to visit all 64 Colorado counties and 41 state parks.

“The Colorado way of life is second-to-none, but preserving that way of life requires action on behalf of our air, water and climate,” said Garner-Wells. “I am excited to lead an exceptional team in sharing the stories of Coloradans who love our state. Together we will lay the groundwork for nationally leading policies that will protect Colorado for generations to come.”

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) today passed a rule that will require new oil and gas development to be set back 1,000 feet from all outdoor and modular school facilities, rather than just from school buildings. This rule closes a loophole that formerly allowed oil and gas activity to occur near school playgrounds and sports fields, as long as it was 1,000 feet from the school building.

“Closing this loophole is a much-needed change, and we’re glad to see increased protections for the health and safety of children across Colorado from dirty and industrial fossil fuel development,” said Sophia Mayott-Guerrero, Energy and Transportation Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “But, it is important to note that this is just one small step forward; we look forward to working with Governor-elect Polis and the legislature to ensure that health and safety of all Coloradans is prioritized when it comes to oil and gas development.”

“It is past time the COGCC consider the health and safety of kids. Implementing a 1,000-foot setback from all school use areas and child care centers where kids learn and play is the least the COGCC can do,” said Sara Loflin, Executive Director of LOGIC, “It is ridiculous that we have had to fight to get oil and gas sites further away from kids and the places where they learn and play.”

“Finally, after three years of effort, the COGCC is responding to the concerns of impacted schools, parents and residents,” said Leslie Robinson, chairwoman of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Garfield County resident. “We should not put children at risk for a privately owned company’s bottom line. Everyone is a champion when we protect children’s health and safety and we hope that this rule is the beginning of more significant changes in Colorado’s oil and gas industry.”

Applying the setback to outside areas where students and teachers learn, recreate, and work took more than two years to occur, as the state legislature killed multiple bills that would have implemented this important change. As Colorado’s political climate shifts, this rulemaking adds momentum to advancing policies that put the public’s health, safety, and welfare first while holding the oil and gas industry accountable.

Additional Details

Today, three conservation organizations — Conservation Colorado, Western Resource Advocates, and Environmental Defense Fund — praised Xcel Energy’s announcement that the Minnesota-based corporation and Colorado’s largest utility had committed to going 100 percent carbon-free by 2050 company-wide. It is the most ambitious commitment to climate action of any power company in the country and their commitment will help Colorado play a leadership role nationally on both climate and clean energy.

“Colorado has yet again established itself as the national leader on clean energy, which is great for our economy, our air and future generations,” said Kelly Nordini, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “By pledging to cut its carbon pollution and transitioning away from fossil fuels, Xcel is leading the way to the future with Colorado as  a national model in fighting climate change. With governor-elect Jared Polis also committing to a bold vision and leadership on climate and clean energy policy, our future is only getting brighter.”

“Utilities have a critical role to play in reducing overall carbon emissions. Xcel Energy should be commended for its leadership in setting ambitious, achievable goals,” said Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois. “Our experience working with Xcel Energy in Colorado for over a decade – to expand renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions – has proven that a healthy economy and protection of our environment can go hand in hand. As Xcel Energy takes action to meet these goals, it will expand opportunities, and dramatically re-shape the energy and carbon landscape across its service area.”

“The grim description of public health impacts in the recently-released National Climate Assessment have provided yet more evidence of the urgency of mitigating climate change. Simply put, we must eliminate carbon pollution, and Xcel Energy is the first power company in the country to commit to doing just that,” said Pam Kiely, Sr. Director of Regulatory Strategy for Environmental Defense Fund. “Xcel has outlined targets that are actually commensurate with the ambition needed from the power sector for us to achieve economy-wide goals, and we look forward to working with Xcel to demonstrate how a decarbonized power sector can catalyze a carbon-free economy.”

Xcel is the largest electricity provider in Colorado. In August, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan, which was supported by WRA, Conservation Colorado, EDF and a diverse coalition that included business, labor, and other leaders. Under the plan, Xcel will retire two aging coal-fired power plants and replace the energy with wind, solar, and the nation’s largest battery-storage project—many of those investments being driven directly into Pueblo County, where the coal plants will be retired. It will dramatically cut carbon pollution, create  hundreds of jobs, and will lead to the investment of over $2 billion in Colorado’s rural economy.

DENVER — Today, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted unanimously to adopt the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Program standards for cars and trucks. Vehicle emissions are among  the largest contributors to carbon pollution in Colorado and contribute to the smog and air toxins that threaten public health. The new LEV standards will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from cars that threaten our health and economy, help Coloradans breathe easier, and help families save money at the pump.

Ahead of today’s vote, more than 7,600 Coloradans called on the AQCC to adopt state emission standards for gas-powered vehicles. Colorado now joins thirteen states and the District of Columbia in adopting the LEV standards.

In 2012, the federal government adopted a national standard that mirrors the LEV Program, with the support of car manufacturers and federal regulators. The Trump Administration, however, is working to roll back those standards.

In response to extensive support at public meetings, the AQCC has also started a stakeholder process to consider adoption of a Zero Emission Vehicle Program. The ZEV Program would set benchmarks for car manufacturers to introduce more electric vehicles into the Colorado market, resulting in even greater emissions reductions from the transportation sector.

Organizations supporting the LEV standards have released the following statements:

Emily Gedeon, Colorado Sierra Club’s Conservation Program Director:

“In the face of rollbacks to clean car standards by the Trump Administration, Coloradans spoke out for cleaner air, and the AQCC listened. Not only will the new standards protect us from excessive, toxic car and truck pollution, but they will save Coloradans money because their new cars and trucks will travel further with each gallon of gas. We look forward to continuing to engage Coloradans to speak out to the AQCC to get cleaner cars on the road in Colorado.”

Garrett Garner-Wells, Director of Environment Colorado:

“Throughout this process, Coloradans sent a clear message: the cars we drive shouldn’t hurt the people and places we love. We applaud the AQCC for listening to the thousands of voices from throughout our state who want cleaner air and climate action by voting to implement low emission vehicle standards.”

Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation Director:

“We shouldn’t have to choose between getting to where we need to go and polluting our air. Adopting a statewide emissions standard is the right decision because it will reduce tailpipe pollution. It also saves us at the pump as car companies take advantage of rapidly advancing fuel efficiency technology and produce cars that go further on a gallon of gas.”

Sophia Mayott-Guerrero, Conservation Colorado Energy and Transportation Advocate:

“Transportation is the biggest contributor to climate change in the U.S. With so many people moving to Colorado, we have more and more cars on the road, giving us dirtier air and accelerating climate change. Colorado took an important step to clean up tailpipe emissions, and now we need to get more electric vehicles on the road.”

Noah Long, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“While the Trump administration is undermining public health, Colorado is stepping in to protect it by ensuring our cars are the cleanest in the nation. This will mean lower spending at the pump for drivers and cleaner air for our families and our future. The next step is just as important: The state must also move to spur sales of more electric vehicles.”

Michelle Robinson, Director of the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“Colorado’s decision is the right choice for drivers, for the climate, and for the future of transportation. By adopting this clean car program, Colorado will ensure that drivers will save hundreds of millions of dollars at the pump in the years to come, money that will be re-invested in the local economy. This decision will also cut oil use in Colorado, reducing the pollution that causes climate change.   At a time when the federal government is rushing to dismantle clean car standards, in defiance of science and common sense, state leadership is more important than ever. With the addition of Colorado, a growing coalition of clean car states will continue to spur innovation in the auto industry and move us toward a cleaner future.”

Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund:

“Clean cars for Coloradans is a mile high home run that means healthier air, a safer climate and cost savings. The new state clean car [ vehicle emission ] standards will protect Coloradans’ health and the state’s natural beauty, and will save people’s hard-earned money. The Trump administration has been undermining our most important health and environmental protections, but states like Colorado are stepping up with win-win solutions that will benefit everyone.”

Other organizations and public agencies to publicly support the increased LEV standards include Environmental Entrepreneurs, Ceres, Colorado Moms Know Best, the City of Aspen, the City of Fort Collins, the City of Longmont, Boulder County Public Health, the City and County of Denver, Eagle County Public Health, Jefferson County Public Health, Pueblo County, and the City of Lakewood Sustainability Division.

Conservation Colorado released the following statement from Executive Director Kelly Nordini on the election of Jared Polis as governor:

Jared Polis said that we can protect the Colorado we love, and he set a bold path to a clean energy future. Colorado voters value our air, land, water, and people so it’s no surprise that they said “yes” to a leader who reflects these values.

Tonight’s elections show yet again that there is tremendous enthusiasm for environmental issues in Colorado. Now more than ever, states must lead the way when it comes to addressing the challenges ahead, and Governor-elect Polis will be at the forefront. Coloradans expect bold leadership from their governor, and we are thrilled to partner with him on his agenda.

At an unprecedented level, Coloradans were energized and engaged on environmental issues in this election because they clearly see the threat coming out of the Trump administration and want Colorado to be a national leader. That’s why in the 2018 election cycle, Conservation Colorado and its political committees spent more money, knocked on more doors, and engaged more voters than ever before. Our activities included:

  • Endorsing 55 candidates.
  • Spending $4.6 million on direct contributions to candidates, expansive digital ad programs, direct mail, canvasses, and TV and radio ads.
  • Knocking on 561,375 doors in targeted areas across the state and making 2,735 calls.
  • Sending more than 150,000 texts, including 110,000 texts to Latino voters.
  • Mobilizing more than 300 members and volunteers to knock doors, make phone calls, and take action to support pro-conservation candidates.
  • Contributing $1.3 million in opposition to Amendment 74.

Conservation Colorado Executive Director Kelly Nordini has released the following statement on the failure of Proposition 112:

Let’s be clear: the oil and gas industry spent at least $30 million to beat this measure by fear-mongering about jobs. No one in this state would be foolish enough to say that tonight’s result mean that voters want an oil and gas rig closer to their homes, schools, or hospitals.

The fact remains: the oil and gas problem in this state has not been solved. Local communities still have too little say in where dangerous facilities are sited; the industry benefits from loopholes to laws meant to protect our environment; our state’s severance tax is the lowest effective severance tax in the nation; and spills, fires, explosions, and pollution remain all too commonplace.

In recent years, the oil and gas industry has stood in the way of basic, common-sense protections like keeping drilling away from our schools or tracking where pipelines exist so we don’t experience another Firestone tragedy. We need our leaders to take action in 2019 to ensure that Colorado has the strongest protections in the west.

Conservation Colorado Executive Director Kelly Nordini released the following statement on the failure of Amendment 74:

Tonight was a victory by a diverse, bipartisan coalition against an oil and gas industry that poured $11 million into a cynical attempt to write their own corporate profits into our constitution. Voters saw this deceptive measure for what it was – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The only thing that the industry gained with their risky gamble with our state’s economy was an even further straining of their social license to operate in this state.