Bipartisan Conservation Bill Would Protect Over 2.3 Million Acres of Public Lands

Finally, some good news for the United States! On February 12, the Senate passed the biggest conservation legislation in a decade, protecting over 2.3 million acres of public lands and water. Even better, the bill passed by a vote of 92 to 8, proving that bipartisanship is not dead.

The Democratic-controlled House will debate the measure after their mid-February recess, and representatives will likely pass it. And surprisingly, White House officials have indicated that Trump will sign the bill. 

Senate Bill 47 was introduced in January by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Known as the Natural Resources Management Act, the bill passed in the Senate by a huge majority – a startling result in an administration that has so far been devoted to conservation rollbacks and stripping away Obama-era environmental protections.

National monuments such as Bears Ears have shrunk, and huge amounts of land have been put up for oil, gas and mining leases — often right next to national parks, national monuments and wilderness areas.

So why would Trump sign such a bill into law? According to The Guardian:

Some conservationists worry that Trump may use the signing of the bill as a bargaining chip in a tussle over other political priorities, although they note that the Senate has clearly demonstrated widespread support for its passage.

But of course, you never know what our dangerous president will think up next.

The bill is packed with provisions for nearly every senator who voted for it, which is presumably why the Senate approved it so overwhelmingly. 

“What we saw all the way through was a sincere effort to get to yes on a lot of pieces that had local support, bipartisan support and support across the two bodies,” explained John Gilroy, who is in charge of U.S. public lands at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “It’s been years in the works, These are not proposals that were thought up just last week, somewhere in Washington D.C.”

Some Highlights of the Bill

  • 1.3 million acres will be newly protected as wilderness, which prohibits roads and motorized vehicles
  • 370,000 acres of land will be permanently withdrawn from possible mining around two national parks, and offshore drilling revenue must be spent on conservation efforts.
  • Nearly 500,000 acres will be protected in California, including an extra 43,000 acres in Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks.
  • 375,000 acres of new wilderness will be designated in the southern California desert, important for the protection of bighorn sheep and desert tortoises. This site is also the setting of thousands of years of cultural history between northern New Mexico and Los Angeles.
  • Nearly half a million acres will be added in Utah, which hasn’t had any new protections since the 1964 Wilderness Act.
  • Funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expired in 2018 when Congress did not renew the program, will be made permanent. This program takes hundreds of millions of dollars from oil and gas royalties earned through government leases and gives that money to conservation groups.

A Few Downsides

  • Although the LWCF will be funded in perpetuity, this does not mean the money will necessarily be spent. Since the fund was created in 1965, less than half of the $40 billion that it currently holds has actually been spent on conservation work during that time.
  • All federal lands will be open to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting — unless these activities are specifically deemed illegal.
  • Bow hunters will now be permitted to carry their weapons through national parks — where hunting is against the law — to reach areas where hunting is legal.

In spite of these downsides, this bill is a huge win for everyone who loves and honors American’s scenic landscapes. As Senator Steve Daines (R – MT) said, “It took public lands to bring divided government together.”

The passage of this bill in the Senate means that people are committed to preserving our public lands and guarding the legacy of our wild spaces. And that is awesome.

Take Action!

The Natural Resources Management Act still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives. If you agree that this is a crucially important bill, please sign my Care2 petition asking all Representatives to pass this measure.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.

 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

56 comments

Mark Donner
Mark Donner25 days ago

Democrats have recently introduced legislation to expand the former Bears Ears National Monument beyond the boundaries that President Barack Obama established — and President Donald Trump slashed. Republican Senate criminals like John Curtis will try to stop his Also Utah has deferred oil and gas leases in those former boundaries. Also Trump's attack on Grand Escalante Staircase for the oil and gas companies is facing some fierce court fights. 99% of the comments submitted opposed the BLM opening it to oil and gas but the government crooks ignored those comments.

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Mia B
Mia B27 days ago

tyfs

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David C
David C28 days ago

thanks

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN h29 days ago

tyfs

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Vincent T
Vincent Tabout a month ago

signed

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Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a month ago

Petition gladly signed.

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a month ago

Thanks.

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Roxana S
Roxana Saezabout a month ago

TYFS

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Glennis W
Glennis Whitneyabout a month ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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