Hickenlooper Calls Out “Phony Environmentalist” Cory Gardner for Blocking Colorado Public Lands Bill - John Hickenlooper for U.S. Senate

Hickenlooper Calls Out “Phony Environmentalist” Cory Gardner for Blocking Colorado Public Lands Bill

Hickenlooper: “There are nine counties that have land in the CORE Act that is to be protected and the county commissioners, for the lands in their county, every one of them supported the CORE Act. So how the hell can Cory Gardner be against it?”

At the foot of Carbondale’s Mount Sopris and the Thompson Divide yesterday, John Hickenlooper called out Senator Cory Gardner for trying to trick Colorado voters about his anti-environmental record while refusing to support a decade-in-the-making bill to protect 400,000 acres of Colorado public lands.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act passed the House last fall, but Gardner has called it a “partisan, political tool” despite bipartisan support and support from every county the bill directly impacts. When a reporter tried to ask Gardner’s office about the bill yesterday, he referred them to his campaign which declined to comment. 

Hickenlooper — who has opposed drilling in the Thompson Divide since his time as governor — said the CORE Act was “homegrown” and took Gardner to task for following orders from Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump instead of fighting for the Colorado ranchers and public lands advocates who’ve worked to protect the area for a decade.

Read more from The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News:

Aspen Times: Hickenlooper stumps for Thompson Divide protection while on Carbondale stop

Former Colorado governor and current U.S. senate candidate John Hickenlooper claimed Wednesday during a campaign stop in Carbondale that his opponent, Republican incumbent Cory Gardner, is a phony environmentalist.

Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, both Democrats, visited the ranch of Bill and Marje Fales 4 miles south of Carbondale to stump for passage of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. The legislation, which has been passed in the U.S. House but stalled in the Senate, would protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado. As part of those protections, it would permanently remove oil and gas leasing on about 200,000 acres in the Thompson Divide area between Carbondale and Paonia.

Hickenlooper said “the coolest thing of all” about the legislation is it was “homegrown” rather than written in Washington, D.C.

“There are nine counties that have land in the CORE Act that is to be protected and the county commissioners, for the lands in their county, every one of them supported the CORE Act,” Hickenlooper said. “So how the hell can Cory Gardner be against it? Well, we know, it’s because (Senate majority leader) Mitch McConnell doesn’t think we need more public lands, because Donald Trump doesn’t think we need more public lands, because the oil and gas industry doesn’t think we need more public lands. That’s the food chain, that’s the pecking order for that.”

“I know you’ve all seen Cory’s ads, but we call it the Once and Only Environmental Act of Cory Gardner,” Hickenlooper said. He claimed Gardner “didn’t do all that much” to get the legislation approved and that he has done nothing to protect “transitional lands” such as Thompson Divide.

“We have to make sure he doesn’t use that miracle of communication technology, the TV ad, he isn’t able to use that as a shortcut back into the Senate,” Hickenlooper said.

Gardner’s staff in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday referred questions about the senator’s position on the CORE Act to his campaign staff. A campaign spokesman couldn’t be reached for comment.

If the CORE Act doesn’t pass this year, Bennet hopes to see it approved in a Democrat-controlled Senate next year. Hickenlooper’s defeat of Gardner would be a key to getting that approved, he said.

Aspen Daily News: Former Gov. Hickenlooper and Sen. Bennet come to the valley

Surrounded by hay bales and with Mount Sopris providing a picturesque backdrop to any campaign event, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet recounted their shared decade or so working alongside the Thompson Divide Coalition and other grassroots advocates in what eventually became known as the CORE Act.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act aims to protect more than 400,000 acres of  public lands in nine counties — including the Thompson Divide area west of Aspen. In July, the bill made its way past the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Hickenlooper — who is vying for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Cory Gardner — shared Bennet’s concerns but expressed optimism for the future, not just for Colorado but for the larger Western region of the country. He cited progressive, environmentally driven Senate candidates in Montana, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. 

“I think that is a statement in and of itself,” he said. 

In addition to the economic drivers behind Colorado’s public lands — from recreation to agriculture to maintaining a sustainable watershed — Hickenlooper also spoke to the more existential reasons people are called to the state.

“There’s a whole universe of different uses out there that are enhanced by us taking care of the lands,” he said, noting his former professional chapter as a geologist. “That transition between the valleys — where people could settle and survive, and the high mountains where a lot of us would go to find God — that transition is one of the most beautiful places on earth. You get that connection to the things that are so much bigger than any of us.”

Hickenlooper punctuated his more esoteric longings with logistical ones, which he backed up with anecdotes from his time serving as mayor of Denver before being elected governor.

“In the first five years [as mayor], we reduced the per-capita [water] consumption by 20%,” he recounted. “Not just to be good guys — we’re doing this to make sure we have a sustainable source of food and we protect our ranching, our farming, our economies. Not just for the short term, but for the long term.”

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