Legislators from both sides of the aisle are rejoicing in the sweeping bipartisan approval of the biggest public lands package of the decade.
Earlier this week, the Senate passed a 662-page measure that will designate over 1.3 million acres as nationally-protected wilderness and create four new national monuments honoring Civil Rights and Union heroes.
The bill was passed in a 92-8 vote, and White House officials have divulged that the president has agreed to sign it, according to The Washington Post.
The S. 47 legislation includes a provision that will ensure the federal government fulfills its decades-old promise to provide allotments to Alaska Natives who served in the Vietnam War. Another provision will ban mining practices on more than 370,000 acres of land surrounding two national parks.
The bill also expands the boundaries of six national parks, including Death Valley and the Mojave; it will allow elementary schoolers in fourth grade or below to visit parks with their families for free; and it will offer various protections against damming and pollution for roughly 620 miles of rivers.
“We have 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,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who is also the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman and co-author of the bill.
Additionally, the legislation includes a notable provision that will permanently reauthorize a program that finances these conservation efforts by diverting money generated from off-shore drilling projects, which is expected to save taxpayers over $9 million.
In the past, the program – known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, has been “described as one of the country’s most important conservation programs.” Over the course of the last five decades since its creation, it has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects throughout the United States.
The LWCF has also been described as a key component of the nation’s booming outdoor recreational economy, which generates over $887 billion in annual consumer spending and supports 7.6 million American jobs.
Congress failed to reauthorize the program in September, which was the second described as one of the country’s most important conservation programs – but thanks to S.47, the fund is now permanently authorized so that it can continue to support public parks and recreation spaces.
“Today marks an overdue but critical victory for America’s most important conservation funding program and for protecting our wild lands,” said Jamie Williams, President of the Wilderness Society. “It’s encouraging to see the new Congress immediately moving bipartisan legislation that conserves our land and water for today and for future generations.”
Be Sure And Share The Good News With Your Friends On Social Media; And On The Other Side Of The Aisle – File photo by Phaedra, CC