Passage of bipartisan Bill 47 through the Senate shows promise for natural resources and outdoor access.
The United States Senate passed the Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) by a 92-8 vote on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. The package of bipartisan public lands bills that address the usage, acquisition, and preservation of land from California to West Virginia, and millions of acres in between.
The Bill was introduced and championed by Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Senator Maria Cantwell (WA). It will now head to the House of Representatives and then the President's desk to sign it into law.
The passage of the bill reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has long been a lynchpin of the public land conservation process, as well as the security of recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing, camping, and more.
Congress failed to renew the LWCF last year, which caused conservation groups to push for S.47 and produce dozens of letters addressed to Washington supporting the bill's passage.
In a way, this act of legislation can be viewed as monumental for American sportsmen and the hobbies they participate in. There are millions of acres of public and BLM lands and countless numbers of conservation programs that will be officially permanent on a legal basis. Land and water resources will be better protected. Hunting on public lands will be enhanced and increased, and public access will be improved.
Senate Bill 47 will also help expand the National Parks System while helping run the parks more efficiently, and designate several portions of rivers as part of the of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. In addition, there were provisions made to continue the tradition of free admission to all national parks and public lands for every fourth grader and accompanying adults.
The Fish and Wildlife Service will also see support from the bill in their push for endangered species protection and the decrease of human-wildlife conflict in recreation areas and other federal lands.
There isn't (and never is) unanimous support for the Act, and the historic preservation programs can often be argued as not enough. At the same time, there's reason to have some faith restored.
When the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke resigned in 2018 after less than two years in the position due to conflict of interest with real estate dealings, the confidence in leadership began to wane and sportsmen around the country needed more reasons to be encouraged.
The Natural Resources Management Act is where those reasons can begin, and now the stage is set for the right kind of work to be done.
The bill's passage through the Senate should be applauded, but the job isn't finished.