Rep. Scott Tipton

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo). is the latest member of the Colorado congressional delegation to introduce a public lands bill in recent weeks.

Tipton’s legislation, the Colorado Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act (Colorado REC Act), would provide permanent protection to tens of thousands of acres of wilderness in Colorado, but stands in contrast to the bills introduced by his Democratic colleagues because of its treatment of oil and gas leasing in the Thompson Divide.

Those bills – the Colorado Wilderness Act introduce by Rep. Diana Degette (D-Colo.) and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) – would have barred oil and gas development in the Thompson Divide.

The Thompson Divide is a stretch of public land within the White River National Forest in Garfield, Mesa, and Pitkin Counties in central Colorado. The area is part of Tipton’s congressional district.

The issue was brought up in U.S. House committee hearing in April where Tipton said that the U.S. Forest Service is opposed to barring development in the Thompson divide because of the adverse effects it could have on current oil and gas lease holders, according to the Aspen Times.

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) defended Tipton’s position and said it wasn’t fair that Neguse’s CORE Act was introduced without Tipton’s consultation since he represents the area.

Tipton’s bill aims to accomplish several goals including permanent protection of wilderness acreage in the Rio Grande National Forest, within the San Juan Mountains and land near the cities of Telluride, Norwood, Ouray, and Ridgeway. It also formally establishes the boundary of the Curecanti National Recreation Area releases acreage in Wilderness Study Areas and an Instant Study Area in parts of Colorado that Tipton says, “have been determined to be unsuitable for wilderness designations,” by the Bureau of Land Management.

In a statement on release of the bill, Tipton said he’s looking to build consensus.

“Colorado’s Third Congressional District is home to some of the most cherished public lands in the country, and we must ensure responsible management and protection of them. The Colorado REC Act is intended to balance the unique needs and desires of various stakeholders that I have met with in recent years, and I hope to be able to build broad consensus around this bill as it moves through the legislative process,” Tipton said. “Today’s announcement is meant to continue conversations on the best ways to manage and preserve some of the Third District’s most treasured places. I look forward to receiving feedback on the components of this measure and incorporating them into a final bill that works for all outdoor enthusiasts.”