Remarks in Support of Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act and CORE Act at Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing
Thank you for the opportunity to, once again, speak about two bills that are very, very important to Colorado: the Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act, and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy, or CORE, Act that Senator Hickenlooper and I are championing together.
Coloradans crafted these bills on kitchen tables and at trailheads across our state. The bills were written in Colorado, not in Washington. And they reflect thoughtful, bipartisan collaboration among tribes, county commissioners, businesses, ranchers, sportsmen, and conservationists.
Last month my family and I rafted the Dolores River. And I know I speak for everyone when I say it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We all came off the river inspired and more committed than ever to protect this remote and beautiful area — and I should say that the people that somehow don’t get mentioned in these hearings, sometimes, are the guides that take you down on these rafts and the folks from Mild to Wild did an amazing job. Anna, who was in our boat with my daughters and with my wife, could not have been more extraordinary.
And their lives, their economy is dedicated to the public lands and to the rivers that this committee, this Congress represents.
It was interesting to have a conversation with them about that, and the next day, literally I think the second day that we were on the trip on the Dolores, another guide, Sara Rosecrans, from the same company, actually lost her life on the Upper Animas river as she was trying to practice for the people that would come to raft.
So when you say, or when I say, or Martin says, or John says, or the rest of us say that these folks are dedicating their lives to the outdoors, that is actually what’s happening. And I just want to say thank you to Anna and the rest of her crew, and to Sara, for their inspiration.
The Dolores River is internationally known for its staggering red rock walls that tower over ponderosa pines. And the Dolores is also the lifeblood of Western Colorado, supplying water to our farmers, ranchers, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
This bill represents a balanced, hard-fought, common-sense way forward to resolve long-standing community disagreements, protect the river for everyone, and provide long-term certainty for generations.
In fact, I would never have been even able to introduce this bill without the bipartisan support of people living near the river who might not agree on anything else but who have come to an agreement on this river.
Republican and Democratic county commissioners in three counties in Southwest Colorado, along with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, local agricultural and ranching interests, and conservation groups all support our bill to protect the Dolores.
And there’s no reason to wonder why. They know that they have an obligation to protect it for their kids and their grandkids, and if they don’t do it, they know nobody else will.
And that’s why earlier this year, every Republican in the Colorado delegation in the House of Representatives joined together to introduce an identical version of this bill in the House.
And before I ask you for your support, I want to also answer Senator Heinrich’s question about Snaggletooth, which was: you enter through the right of the pour [over], and then you work your way left. And that is how you get through the Snaggletooth and that’s how you avoid the big rock. And of course, Anna was the one avoiding the big rocks, but that’s what we did.
Then, I’ve got to mention also while I’m here, the CORE Act. Madam Chair, please allow me to describe this important bill, also written in Colorado.
Many of you have heard me discuss this bill over the years, so I’ll be brief today.
But Coloradans of all stripes have been working on the CORE Act for over a decade to conserve over 420,000 acres of public lands in Colorado.
County commissioners across the political spectrum, outfitters, ranchers, hunters and anglers, and local businesses all came together to hammer out a compromise and find the best way forward to protect iconic places like the Thompson Divide and the San Juan Mountains.
And I ask this Committee to honor the incredible bipartisan work that was done to create this legislation.
And as evidence of the broad coalition that is fighting to pass the CORE Act and the Dolores River, Madam Chair, I come with letters and testimony from counties, tribal leaders, conservation groups, sportsmen, water districts, and community leaders supporting each of these bills.
I ask unanimous consent that these letters be entered into the hearing record.
Thank you, Madam Chair. And as I close, I’d like to ask for your support and the support of the committee to move this legislation forward. The CORE Act, like the Dolores River bill, reflect the kind of bipartisan consensus that should be honored by the Senate.