Biggest Conservation Bill in Decades Passes Senate

Conservation bill will expand Death Valley and other National Parks. Photo from Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park © Frank Gallagher.

Conservation bill will expand Death Valley and other National Parks. Photo from Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park © Frank Gallagher.

In an exercise of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate is just passed a major conservation bill, S. 47 The Natural Resources Management Act, by a vote of 92-8 and the White House has signaled the president will sign it.  The House of Representatives will take up the legislation later this month.

As reported this evening by the Washington Post, among the provisions of the bill is the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which lapsed in September.  The LWCF “supports the protection of federal public lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas – and voluntary conservation on private land.” Created in 1965, LCWF receives its funding from fees from offshore drilling for oil and gas.

Additional provisions expand wilderness areas by 1.3 million acres, remove from mining 370,000 acres near Yellowstone and other parks, add acreage to Death Valley and Joshua Tree and protect more than 620 miles of rivers.  The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act will be reauthorized and funded through 2022 and three new units will be added to the park system.

The bill doesn’t deliver everything conservation organizations had been asking for, but provides more than enough benefits to get their enthusiastic support. The legislation is expected to have a relatively easy time in the House.  Stay tuned.