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FILE This Sept.3, 2008 file photo shows a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) range marker in the proposed location of three BrightSource Energy solar-energy generation complexes in the eastern Mojave Desert several miles from Ivanpah, Calif. The Oakland, Calif.-based BrightSource Energy has been pushing for more than two years for permission to erect 400,000 mirrors on the site to gather the sun's energy. It could become the first project of its kind on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property, leaving a footprint for others to follow on vast stretches of public land across the West. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

Colorado’s Congressional delegation is split along party lines on major public lands bills

In January, Sen. Michael Bennet, hinting that he may throw his name into the presidential race, announced an ambitious public lands legislative package. His hope was that Republicans like Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton would sign on, and hasten the bill’s journey through the legislative process.

Nearly six months later, Bennet is a confirmed candidate for the Democartic ticket, but he hasn’t been able to coax Republicans into supporting his legislation. Instead, Tipton, a Republican who represents Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, introduced his own bill late last month. While Tipton’s proposal does highlight some common ground with Bennet, some conservation groups are calling it the “wilderness lite” bill.

The two highlight a divide in how Republicans and Democrats approach public lands, which help billions in revenue, in Colorado.

Bennet, along with Boulder Congressman Joe Neguse, set out to merge and refine four previous and unsuccessful bills: the Contiental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act; the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act; Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act; and the Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act.

Together, the bill would protect approximately 400,000 acres of public land. Included is 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas and about 80,000 areas are new recreation and conservation management areas for outdoor uses.

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