Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Biggest Public Lands Bill in 10+ Years Clears Congress, Protecting More Than 1.3 Million Acres of Wilderness

Popular
Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Jerome Gorin / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 363-62 to pass the Natural Resources Management Act Tuesday, which means the biggest public lands bill in more than a decade has now passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support.


"This bill represents Congress at its best and truly gives the American people something to be excited about," House Natural Resources Committee Chair and Arizona Democrat Raúl M. Grijalva in a press release. "It's a massive win for the present and future of American conservation. Everyone from inner cities to suburbs to rural communities wins when we work together to preserve the outdoors."

The bill designates more than 1.3 million acres as wilderness, permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund to pay for conservation measures using money from offshore oil and gas drilling and demonstrates a renewed commitment on the part of both parties to protect the public lands widely loved by their constituents, National Geographic reported.

"It's rare to see Congress act in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, but today reminds everyone that the protection of our public lands isn't a red or blue issue, it's an American one," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a press release.

Here are some of the other key achievements of the bill, according to the Associated Press and the House Natural Resources Committee:

1. Protects more than 350 miles of "wild and scenic" river.

2. Creates almost 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas.

3. Protects 370,000 acres around Yellowstone National Park in Montana and North Cascades National Park in Washington from mining.

4. Creates five new national monuments including the Mississippi home of civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers.

5. Expands Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks.

6. Authorizes the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which will give every fourth grader in the country free access to public lands for another seven years.

The bill is a victory after a variety of conservation projects like the protection of the Evers' home had stalled in Congress in recent years as other issues took priority, National Geographic reported.

The Land and Water Conservation fund ran out of its previous authorization in September of 2018 and Congress could not agree on language to extend it at that time. The full act delayed from passing late in 2018 because Republican Utah Senator Mike Lee argued his state should be exempt from a provision allowing the president to turn federal lands into national monuments to protect them from development, according to The Associated Press.

However, the final bill was championed by both Republicans and Democrats.

"I think the reality is, even when the politicians are getting in each other's way, communities across the country have never stopped caring about public lands," Wilderness Society Director Drew McConville told National Geographic.

Utah Representative and top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee Rob Bishop praised its "wins for America's sportsmen, hunters and fishermen."

The bill opens all federal lands to hunting and fishing unless the management plan for the area prevents it. As National Geographic explained, this does not mean every public land will be opened to sportspeople, but rather that the process of gaining access will be easier.

The package now heads to the White House for a signature.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Some speculate that the dissemination of the Antarctic beeches or Nothofagus moorei (seen above in Australia) dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

A team of scientists drilled into the ground near the South Pole to discover forest and fossils from the Cretaceous nearly 90 million years ago, which is the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
The recovery of elephant seals is one of the "signs of hope" that scientists say show the oceans can recover swiftly if we let them. NOAA / CC BY 2.0

The challenges facing the world's oceans are well known: plastic pollution could crowd out fish by 2050, and the climate crisis could wipe out coral reefs by 2100.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A schoolchildren crossing sign is seen in front of burned trees in Mallacoota, Australia on Jan. 15, 2020. Luis Ascui / Getty Images

By Bhiamie Williamson, Francis Markham and Jessica Weir

The catastrophic bushfire season is officially over, but governments, agencies and communities have failed to recognize the specific and disproportionate impact the fires have had on Aboriginal peoples.

Read More Show Less
Workers convert the Scottish Events Campus, where COP26 was to be held, into a field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients. ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP via Getty Images

The most important international climate talks since the Paris agreement was reached in 2015 have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view of a crude oil storage facility of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in the Krasnodar Territory. Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Getty Images

Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.

Read More Show Less