After the government shutdown caused several weeks of difficulties in national parks across the country, there’s finally good news for America’s public lands coming out of Washington. On Tuesday, the Senate passed the Natural Resources Management Act, a sweeping bill that, if signed into law, would protect well over a million acres of land across the country.
The largest land protections would be added in the western United States, especially around existing national parks. The measure adds 43,000 acres to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and protects 30,000 acres near Yellowstone National Park in Montana, The Guardian reports. In addition, the bill designates hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Utah, southern California, and Oregon, and specifically protects several rivers in those states, including the Amargosa River in California, the Green River in Utah, and tributaries of the Rogue River in Oregon.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the bill designates these lands as federal wilderness, a strict protection that prohibits road-building and even motorized vehicles. Meanwhile, hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting will be allowed unless otherwise prohibited.
In addition to the specific land protections, the bill also renews the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a major source of funding for land conservation across the country. The fund expires periodically, but the Senate bill would authorize it indefinitely without the need for further renewals, SFGate reports.
The measure passed 92-8 in the Republican-controlled Senate, and according to the Chicago Tribune, has wide support in the Democrat-controlled House. It’s expected to pass when the lower chamber takes up the bill later this month. As long as President Trump signs the finished bill, it’ll become law and the lands will be protected.
Although Washington is infamous for its partisan gridlock, both sides were able to get behind this land conservation effort.
“It took public lands to bring divided government together,” said Montana Senator Steve Daines after the vote.
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