U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse said Wednesday he has been elected to chair the House Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, taking over from U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, the New Mexico Democrat nominated as secretary of Interior.

Neguse will be the first Coloradan and the first African-American lawmaker to chair the subcommittee in its 215 years of existence.

The Lafayette Democrat, serving his second term representing Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, said in a release that he intends to pursue a "bold and comprehensive" agenda to protect public lands.

In a statement, Neguse said he's honored to take the gavel "as we begin critical work to preserve our public lands, restore our forests and protect our communities from record-breaking wildfires.” 

Noting that Colorado is home to a dozen national forests and that public lands make up more than 36% of the state's acreage, Neguse said: "Our state’s robust outdoor recreation economy also inextricably links Colorado’s lands with our economic growth. As a result, the issues discussed in this subcommittee have a profound impact on the health and safety of Coloradans, our local economies and every aspect of our environment."

Neguse, who rocketed into the national spotlight earlier this month as one of the nine House managers prosecuting former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, said he plans to focus on preserving public lands, environmental sustainability and wildfire mitigation.

Among his priorities, Neguse listed shepherding a public lands package through the House, likely including the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act — known as the CORE Act — to protect 400,000 acres of Colorado land and boost the state's outdoor recreation economy. He also plans to introduce legislation to establish a 21st Century Conservation Corps, as well as work on wildfire mitigation, resiliency and recovery efforts in the wake of Colorado's record-setting wildfires last year.

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