The Natural Resources Management Act passed the House of Representatives to protect 1.3 million acres of wilderness for the first time in decades. The favorable, 363-62, vote passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.
The new bill, S.47, is viewed as “a massive win for the present and future of American conservation.”
“This bill represents Congress at its best and truly gives the American people something to be excited about,” Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona), House Natural Resources Committee Chair said in a press release. “Everyone from inner cities to suburbs to rural communities wins when we work together to preserve the outdoors.”
The bill will reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and, aside from protecting the 1.3 million acres of wilderness, it will designate “693,000 acres of recreation and conservation areas, and two mineral withdrawal areas totaling 370,000 acres,” according to the press release. This brings the total conservation of public land to 2.4 million acres under the Natural Resources Management Act.
“LWCF has funded 42,000 projects across the country, bringing tremendous economic benefits and returns on investment since it was established in 1965. The program has expired twice in recent years. Today’s bill reauthorizing the law removes it from future political consideration and prevents any future expirations.”
As outlined in a press release, the new bill will impact the nation in several ways:
- designate more than 1 million acres of wilderness on federal land in California, Oregon, Utah, and New Mexico;
- add five new national recreation areas;
- expand Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve; and
- cut off new mining activities in areas north of Yellowstone National Park and outside North Cascades National Park.
Fact: The Emery County Public Land Management title alone protects more than 600,000 acres in Utah, making it the biggest wilderness bill in nearly 25 years.
African American History
- protect the home of Medgar and Myrlie Evers, passionate advocates for justice and equity during the Civil Rights Movement;
- expand the Reconstruction Era National Monument into a National Historic Park;
- create a Reconstruction Era National Historic Network to coordinate historical preservation and education efforts;
- reauthorize the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Historic Preservation Program.
- authorize the Every Kid Outdoors Act for seven years, providing every fourth-grader in the U.S. free access to public lands; and
- include a bipartisan sportsmen’s package designed to enhance access for hunting, fishing, and other recreation activities on public lands and waters.
Conservation and Job Training
- expand protections under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to over 370,000 riparian acres, including segments along the Lower Farmington, Salmon Brook, Wood-Pawcatuck, and Nashua rivers in New England;
- expand the Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia;
- designate several new National Heritage Areas in Arizona, Washington, and West Virginia; and
- establish the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps to increase job training opportunities for youth, veterans, and Native Americans on public and tribal lands.
- reauthorize the Fish and Wildlife Partners program, which would give assistance to private land owners for restoring, enhancing and managing their land to improve fish and wildlife habitats;
- reauthorize the Multinational Species Conservation Fund, which makes targeted investments to protect African elephants, Asian elephants, great apes, marine turtles, tigers, and rhinos; and
- establishes prize competitions for innovative approaches to wildlife conservation, invasive species control, and poaching and trafficking issues.
“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,” Drew McConville, Wilderness Society Director, said.
The bill will now need the signature of Donald Trump to become law.