Senate Passes Public Lands Bill Protecting 2 Million Acres of Wilderness
With overwhelming bipartisan support, the US Senate passed a public lands bill that will place more than 2 million federal acres under protection. The measure also will make the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established in 1964, a permanent piece of legislation that is in place to protect natural areas and water resources.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) took to Twitter to declare this measure as being the largest public lands package to pass in a decade. The measure will establish more than 1.3 million acres of new federally protected lands, including long stretches of rivers and trails, in addition to creating four new national monuments.
Major national parks will also see expansion under this public lands measure. This includes Joshua Tree and Death Valley, while withdrawing more than 370,000 acres of land from parks like Yellowstone. It also authorizes a program that allows for offshore-drilling revenues to be spent on conservation efforts in protected lands.
Other measures found in the bill include the continued funding for the Every Kid in a Park program, which grants fourth graders and their family free admission to all national parks. It also approved the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act, which affords more opportunities to young adults and veterans to help maintain trails and other public land sites as needed.
The bill, aimed at protecting prized natural areas around the country, enjoyed a rare show of bipartisanship in the Senate. Cantwell said in a press conference, “Today is a very important day for public lands. It shows that there are bipartisan spirits alive in the United States Senate to support access for hunting, fishing and recreating to our public lands.” The bill will head to the house sometime later this month, where it is expected to pass. Rumors within the White House claim that it will be signed into law by President Trump.
Today marks an overdue but critical victory for America’s most important conservation funding program and for protecting our wild lands, from Utah’s red rock canyons to the heart of Washington’s North Cascades.– Jamie Williams, President of the Wilderness Society
The bill has been well received by conservationists, gaining widespread support for the numerous measures pertaining to protecting natural lands. ,