WASHINGTON D.C. FEBRUARY 26TH 2019: In a fortifying display of bi-partisan cooperation, the House voted with an overwhelming majority of 363 to 62 to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund amid a host of other provisions. Having past the Senate in early February, S.47, also known as the Natural Resources Management Act, is now on it’s way to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
Along with adding 4 new National Monuments, the boundaries of many federally managed lands including National Parks, national forests, scenic and wild riverways, recreation areas, and battlefields, are to be expanded under the package deal which includes over a hundred separate little conservation victories.
Perhaps more importantly, the landmark piece of legislation includes the permanent reinstatement of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – one of the most important sources of public lands funding in the nation’s history.
The fund takes a small percentage from the royalties made on all federally-managed offshore energy production and sets it aside to be dolled out later for the use of acquiring and managing public lands in America. This includes magnificent tracks of natural wilderness, national scenic rivers, but also thousands of local playgrounds, soccer pitches, and baseball diamonds.
“This package gives our country a million acres of new wilderness, protects a million acres of public lands from future mining…” said Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and head the House Natural Resources Committee. “It’s one of the biggest bipartisan wins for this country I’ve ever seen in Congress.”
The bill is heralded as a victory for recreation and sportsmen’s access as well as conservation, as it includes a provision which sets aside a small amount of the LWCF money for providing access to inaccessible public lands, as well as increasing the opportunities on currently available lands.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was required to be renewed every few years by congress. S.47 will make it a permanent addition to the arsenal of public lands legislation enjoyed by all Americans.
Leaders of conservation groups all over the country have been announcing their approval for this triumph of American conservation, with Jamie Williams, president of the Wilderness Society, describing it as “An overdue but critical victory for America’s most important conservation funding program,” while Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership applauded the passing as well, stating that it “Marks a turning point for public lands in America, as our elected officials have shown their support for LWCF’s enduring legacy”.