The Senate just passed the decade’s biggest public lands package: WaPo


Here’s a link. Some excerpts.

he Senate on Tuesday passed the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country and establishing four new national monuments honoring heroes from Civil War soldiers to a civil rights icon.

The 662-page measure, which passed 92 to 8, represented an old-fashioned approach to dealmaking that has largely disappeared on Capitol Hill. Senators from across the ideological spectrum celebrated home-state gains and congratulated each other for bridging the partisan divide.

“It touches every state, features the input of a wide coalition of our colleagues, and has earned the support of a broad, diverse coalition of many advocates for public lands, economic development, and conservation,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky).

Perhaps the most significant change the legislation would make is permanently authorizing a federal program that funnels offshore drilling revenue to conserve everything from major national parks and wildlife preserves to local baseball diamonds and basketball courts. Authorization for the popular program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), lapsed months ago due to the partial government shutdown and other disputes. Liberals like the fact that the money allows agencies to set aside land for wildlife habitat. Conservatives like the fact that taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for it.

Congress is now set to reauthorize the fund in perpetuity, though it will not make its spending mandatory. Congressional funding for the program has “fluctuated widely” since its inception in 1965, according to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report. Less than half of the $40 billion that has piled up in the fund during its five decades of existence has been spent by Congress on conservation efforts.

And Utahns supporting wilderness..

As outlined his opposition in the Deseret News a day after Utah’s junior senator, Mitt Romney (R), defended the package in the same paper. “We can conserve wildlife, protect historic sites, maintain access and preserve Utah’s public lands in a way that reflects the priorities of rural Utahns,” Romney wrote. “This is the future our public lands need and deserve.”

In an interview, Heinrich noted that Republican and Democratic supporters of the bill stuck together to defeat hostile amendments such as Lee’s, which could have unraveled the deal.

“That’s something you used to see all the time,” he said. “That’s been much more rare in recent years.”

The package designates several other protected areas in Utah, including the 850-acre Jurassic National Monument and the much more vast San Rafael Swell Recreation Area. Scott Groene, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance executive director, said the wilderness designations will keep motorized vehicle use at bay in Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons, part of the dramatic red rock landscape that defines the state.

“Spectacular canyons will remain quiet places,” Groene said.

Maybe Congress working together based on mutual interests (and listening to the voices of those affected), and major bipartisan lifting to get a bill out the door, will become more frequent. One can only hope.

13 thoughts on “The Senate just passed the decade’s biggest public lands package: WaPo”

  1. In my opinion, the impact of this Public Lands “omnibus” package will be/is being greatly overstated.

    To gain the full understanding, it must be looked at in the context of the tremendous damage inflicted to America’s public land and wildlife heritage by the Trump administration, and previously by the GOP-controlled Congress.

    It’s not like Mitch McConnell and the GOP-controlled Senate just woke up today and decided that passing “the most wide-reaching and important public lands legislation passed since the 1970s” (which is how I’ve seen some media outlets report it) was anywhere in their agenda, or at the top of the GOP “to-do” list.

    Yes, there are some decent provisions in the package. There are still some bad provisions in the package. But to consider this omnibus package as anything more than a drop in the bucket – when looking at the entire context of public lands and wildlife policy and management and all the rollbacks at the hands of the G.W. Bush administration, Trump administration and years of bad bills passed by Congress – would be a mistake.

    • You must not live in the West, this bill is devastating to us. It fulfills a large portion of environmental groups objectives to ban access to public land for recreation and other activities. The LWCF is a trough for them and the federal government to buy land, more land taken by the federal government, for banned use. Livelihoods in the west are being destroyed because of these types of legislation. Taking land for this or any purpose is not an enumerated power of the federal government.

      • Howdy Karen. Missoula, Montana has been my home since 1995. Can you please tell us where the bill supposedly “bans access.” Are human beings seriously banned from public land as you claim?

        Also, I think quite a few Indigenous Native Americans would agree with you that “Taking land for this or any purpose is not an enumerated power of the federal government.”

    • “It’s a paradoxical win for conservation at a time when President
      Trump has promoted development on public lands and scaled back
      safeguards established by his predecessors.”

      For the sake of this argument, let’s say ALL of the revenues of oil production would go to “conservation.” Will it matter a whit if the most urgent warning from the IPCC, warns we have a mere 12 years to dramatically alter our energy policy and business as usual?

      It is now well established by international scientific consensus these fossil fuel resources must remain “undeveloped” in order to prevent their carbon emissions from sealing the existential fates of manifold life forms of our entire biosphere. The time frame is millennia, and functionally forever.

      At what point does funding “conservation” have any meaning once the triggering of myriad, “irreversible, catastrophic” nonlinear feedbacks transform our biosphere into Hell on Earth?

      As of January 24, 2019, the Doomsday Clock stands at 2 minutes to midnight . We’ve never been closer to self annihilation, in part due to the addition of existential threats of catastrophic climate disruption in 2007. Our present predicament is described by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists as “the new abnormal.”

      So where are we as a nation at two minutes to midnight?

      The Washington Post is propagandizing bipartisan legislation specifically intending to allay and distract public fears; delay meaningful public policy action; and dissembling through lies of omission preventing any public understanding of a desperate need for meaningful action

  2. Owyhee county, Idaho
    Use was previously banned in the Boulder White clouds wilderness area, Idaho
    Any time an areas is declared protected there is banned or severely restricted use, extending park boundaries as this bill does will restrict use, just as use in national parks is restricted.
    The feds take land and give to tribes, extending previous ceded land back to them. Once this is done it goes into federal trust, essentially back into federal hands, read your history. In fact, read The Dismantling of America by Elaine Willman.
    If you understand it is not an enumerated power, why do you support this bill?

    • Ok, Karen, you have gone from claiming that the bill “bans access” to now talking about “use” being banned. That may not seem like an important difference to you, but it is. Also, I obtained a BA in history and am a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society. So, I’ve read some history in my life. Thanks.

  3. Interesting spin by Romney, because here’s Utah’s attempt to STOP future efforts that would “reflect the priorities of rural Utahns.”

    “State bill seeks to usurp local control.” It would “require Utah counties to obtain legislative approval before proposing or endorsing a federal land designation.” It would immediately affect a proposal for Congress to designate an 80,000 conservation area on federal lands for the Central Wasatch, which is an important water source and recreation area.

    Critics point out that Utah lawmakers tout the importance of “local control” and blast federal land managers for disregarding local officials’ wishes. “Top to bottom rarely works. Bottom to the top is what you guys live on,” San Juan County Commissioner Willie Grayeyes told the committee last week, pointing out the apparent hypocrisy in HB78 proponents’ reasoning. His remarks hinted that the Legislature’s preference for local primacy ends when it promotes protective designations.

  4. Matthew,
    pg 474 SEC. 4103. CLOSURE OF FEDERAL LAND TO HUNTING, FISHING, AND RECREATIONAL SHOOTING. (although this does require public input, the public input has never been considered by the feds, and the ruse will be species of greatest conservation need via SWAP so there will be no land use as a result for their “protection”)
    “the Secretary, on request of an Indian Tribe or Indian religious community, shall temporarily close to general public use any portion of an area designated as a national monument, special management area, wild and scenic river, area of critical environmental concern, or National Park System unit under this Act (referred to in this subsection as a designated area’) to protect the privacy of traditional cultural and religious activities in the designated area by members of the Indian Tribe or Indian religious community.

    It should be noted these are specific to areas in states such as California within this bill where the feds have decided to expand non or regulated use. I am tired of their games and fluff words in giving the appearance of use. Why don’t they just close all of it off to us and the conflict will cease. Let them have their woods.

    Cudos on your education that validates your knowledge, I have a post graduate degree. Being a member of an honor group doesn’t make anyone smart. We are not going to get anywhere in a conversation, you are aligned with the green agenda, I am not. I would also suggest you read the bill.

    • Howdy Karen, You are grossly misinterpreting what SEC. 4103 does. It most certainly DOES NOT (AT ALL) close federal lands to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. In fact, the intent of the bill is the EXACT OPPOSITE.

      See this press release from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus – a group of Congresspeople that I typically oppose on most things, by the way. Also, as a hunter myself I’m totally opposed to the Sec 4103 provision, but again, Karen, you are grossly misinterpreting what it actually does. Here are some snips from the press release from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus:

      “Some of the priority sporting provisions in this bill include:

      • Directing Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands to be open for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless specifically closed.”

      “The Natural Resources Management Act will enhance and expand sportsmen’s access by making federal lands in West Virginia and throughout the nation open unless closed for fishing, hunting, recreational shooting, and other outdoor activities.”

      Also, I think you meant Kudos, in your comment above. So thanks. Keep in mind, you started in this thread claiming “You must not live in the West.” That assumption on your part was wrong, as I’ve lived in Missoula, MT pretty much my entire adult life, for the past 25 years.

      Then you basically claimed I don’t know history, and you told me to “read your history.” So I pointed out my degree, and membership in a national history honor society. Perhaps instead of guessing my background or making assumptions, you should just stick to what you know. Thanks.

  5. At first I thought great, they left Oregon alone, but that’s not the case. More wilderness and wild and scenic areas for Oregon too. Which means more areas the feds can practice their do nothing, let it burn philosophy.

  6. I agree with David Beebe’s point that the LWCF is basically blood money. I’m not against it and the great things it is used for, but I’m still waiting to see any conservation organization that uses the money to make the connection and warn that this should be viewed as a temporary measure for the reasons David gave. “Permanent funding” of something that needs to end is a problematic goal.


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