This week, the U.S. Senate pushed party lines aside when voting on a massive land conservation bill. The bill, known as the Natural Resources Management Act on the U.S. Congress website, was passed 92-8 on Tuesday, Feb. 12. The bill is going to make a huge difference in environmental protection in the U.S., as it will preserve more than 1 million acres of land, more than 600 miles of river, provide funding for land conservation, and more.
As the New York Times reported, 1.3 million acres of land in California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah will be permanently deemed "wilderness" under the bill, which is the highest level of land protection under the federal government. That land includes areas in California's Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Mojave National Preserve, the Chicago Tribune added. Areas in two other states, Montana and Washington, will also receive some permanent (though less strict) land conservation, the New York Times noted.
Additionally, as the Washington Post reported, the Natural Resources Management Act will conserve more than 600 miles of rivers in seven states, including Oregon's Rogue River and New England's Nashua River.
Furthermore, the bill will permanently reinstate the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the New York Times added. According to the fund's website, Congress created the LWCF back in 1964 as a bipartisan pledge to preserve nature across the U.S. The program is funded by the profits of offshore drilling, and it uses those profits to conserve the country's national parks, forests, water, and more. The LWCF expired on Sept. 30, 2018, and since then, the country's parks have lost more than $300 million in funding. Previously, the New York Times noted, the bill was only renewed for several years at a time — but this time, the Senate permanently renewed it, with no end date in sight.
The Natural Resources Management Act will also benefit hunters, fishers, and shooters. As the Washington Post reported, the bill will open many federal lands up to those activities. Environmentalists who are against animal cruelty may not be in support of this part of the bill, but Jesse Deubel, New Mexico Wildlife Federation's executive director, feels differently. As he told the Washington Post, he believes that more hunting land in New Mexico will increase travel to the state, therefore boosting the economy. “People will travel to these places to pursue game in this wild, untamed habitat,” he said.
Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican senator from Montana, celebrated the two political parties coming together to support the bill. “It took public lands to bring divided government together,” he said following the vote as per the Chicago Tribune. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator from Alaska who co-authored and sponsored the bill, feels similarly. “We have also worked for months on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to truly negotiate every single word in this bill — literally down to one one-tenth of a mile for [a] certain designation," Murkowski said to her fellow senators earlier in the week, as per the Washington Post.
Not only is the passing of the Natural Resources Management Act a milestone moment in terms of U.S. conservation, but it also provides hope that the Senate will agree on more bipartisan bills in the near future.