The Public Lands Package Just Passed. We're Stoked.

Desert Landscape | Public Lands Package » Seek More Wilderness
The public lands package was just signed into law. We’re freaking out. In a good way.
Want to know why we’re so excited? Just keep reading, because we’ve written a short-ish summary on what this phenomenal package includes and what it means for outdoor enthusiasts like us. It’s the biggest opportunity the public lands have had in a decade, and we’re so excited it's finally caming together.
Here's what the Natural Resources Management Act would build:
LWCF Permanent Reauthorization
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been permanently reauthorized. This fund was created by Congress almost 50 years ago and uses the direct revenues from offshore oil and gas development to fund parks, greenways, waterways, and trails across the nation. It's a huge deal for conserving public lands and improving outdoor recreation opportunities.
The problem was that when the fund was made, it had an expiration date so that its funding would expire in 2015 unless Congress re-authorized it. Since then, it's been re-funded and nearly expired over and over again, making its future very uncertain. Thanks to the public lands package, it has the funding it needs indefinitely. Outside did a great, in-depth feature on this article earlier this fall.
Yellowstone National Park
This is a huge win for public land protections
The bill designates more wilderness areas, more rivers with Wild & Scenic River protection, more land for Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, and more. Here are some other highlights from the Natural Resources Management Act:
  • Emery County Public Land Management Act
    • This protects 972,335 acres in Emercy County Utah, including most of San Rafael Swell. This is good news for folks who don't want wilderness protection rollbacks, allowing the State of Utah to build highways through designated wilderness, and don't want to hand over 12,000 acres of land that is proposed to become America's Red Rock Wilderness.
  • Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers Act
    • This protects 126,000 acres of wilderness and 469 river miles of Washington's Olympic peninsula.
  • San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act
    • This protects 60,000 acres in the San Juan Mountains in CO.
  • Oregon Wildlands Act
    • This protects 226,920 acres of Oregon wilderness and 252 river miles, including the Rogue River Watershed, Devil's Staircase, and the Molalla and Chetco Rivers.
  • California Desert Protection and Recreation Act
    • This expands Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks. 
    • This designates 278,230 acres of wilderness and 77 river miles.
  • Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act
    • This designates 241,067 acres of wilderness in New Mexico's Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
  • Creates two new wilderness areas in New Mexico
    • The 13,420-acre Ferro Del Yuta Wilderness and the 8,120-acre Rio San Antonia Wilderness would both be created, protecting important habitat for elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep.
  • Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act
    • This protects Yellowstone Park and the headwaters of the Yellowstone River by preventing large-scale mining in the nearby National Forest Lands. This is especially cool, because the bill is authored by local Montana politicians who understand that ecological health and tourism is just as important as mining interests.

All told, this package expands eight national parks, adds three new park units (two civil war battlefields and the home of civil rights activists, protects important fish habitat in Oregon, protects habitat for 368 migratory bird species, and much, much more.

 

Think all of this is pretty cool? Agreed. And that's especially true because this public lands package has bipartisan support. We're overdue for Republicans and Democrats to come together on something. This bill is about protecting our American heritage - that's good for our economy and our environment. Even though momentum stumbled a few times, we're proud that Congress could finally come together to make this 680-page bill happen. 

 

Many thanks to Outdoor Alliance for their work monitoring, advocating, and educating on the public lands package.