NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Mammoth public lands bill gets resounding vote of support on final passage in U.S. House

A gar­gan­tu­an-sized, long-await­ed pub­lic lands bill final­ly passed out of the Unit­ed States Con­gress today after receiv­ing a resound­ing vote of sup­port on final pas­sage in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The leg­is­la­tion, S. 47, the Nat­ur­al Resources Man­age­ment Act, now awaits action by the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.

S. 47 is packed to the gills with pro­vi­sions that will expand Amer­i­ca’s nation­al parks sys­tem, per­ma­nent­ly reau­tho­rize the wild­ly suc­cess­ful Land & Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund, bol­ster fund­ing for geo­log­ic haz­ards research and vol­cano mon­i­tor­ing (which is one of NPI’s leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties), des­ig­nate new Nation­al Her­itage Areas, and safe­guard places like the head­wa­ters of the Methow Val­ley from mining.

Accord­ing to Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell’s office (PDF), S. 47 includes more than one hun­dred and ten indi­vid­ual bills. The leg­is­la­tion has some­thing for every­one… a clas­sic trait of a land­mark, sweep­ing fed­er­al bill. Cantwell was deeply involved in putting the bill togeth­er and is jus­ti­fi­ably cel­e­brat­ing its suc­cess­ful passage.

Although it isn’t quite law yet, S. 47 passed with veto-proof mar­gins in each cham­ber of Con­gress, so there would be no point in Trump veto­ing it.

The wild and scenic Sandy River

The wild and scenic Sandy Riv­er in Ore­gon (Bureau of Land Man­age­ment photo)

“Since Scoop Jack­son cham­pi­oned the Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund in the 1960s, it has giv­en us so many oppor­tu­ni­ties for out­door recre­ation and devel­op­ment,” Sen­a­tor Cantwell said in a state­ment sent to NPI.

“There’s noth­ing bet­ter than just being out­doors – it’s such an impor­tant part of our North­west cul­ture. I am glad the House passed this impor­tant leg­is­la­tion, and I hope the Pres­i­dent will sign it expeditiously.”

Three hun­dred and six­ty-three U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed in favor of S. 47. Six­ty-two U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, all Repub­li­cans, vot­ed against.

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was as fol­lows:

Vot­ing Aye: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, Den­ny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Kurt Schrad­er (OR); Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, Dan New­house, Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Greg Gian­forte (MT), Mike Simp­son (ID), Don Young (AK)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher (ID)

Not Vot­ing: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Pete DeFazio (OR)

Ida­ho’s Russ Fulcher, a fresh­man Repub­li­can, was the lone no vote against the bill from the Pacif­ic North­west­’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion. Even the Trump-lov­ing Greg Gian­forte of Mon­tana vot­ed for S. 47, prime spon­sored by Lisa Murkowski.

The Nation­al Parks Con­ser­va­tion Asso­ci­a­tion says S. 47 will “expand nation­al parks by more than 42,000 acres, expand the Nation­al Trails Sys­tem by 2,600 miles and add 621 miles into the Nation­al Wild and Scenic Rivers System.”

Two new nation­al mon­u­ments will be cre­at­ed and 1.3 mil­lion acres in pub­lic lands will be des­ig­nat­ed as wilder­ness, pro­tect­ing them from thought­less development.

“I’ve been fight­ing hard to per­ma­nent­ly reau­tho­rize the Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund, so I’m thrilled the House has tak­en this impor­tant step,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene. “LWCF has con­tributed over $675 mil­lion to Washington’s econ­o­my and helped pro­tect some of our most pre­cious nation­al parks, water­ways, and wildlife. By pass­ing this leg­is­la­tion, we’ll be able fund more projects through­out our region while pro­tect­ing our state’s nat­ur­al beau­ty. I encour­age the Pres­i­dent to sign this bill into law with­out delay.”

“The Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund is the cor­ner­stone of envi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion and has helped to pre­serve Wash­ing­ton state’s pub­lic lands as well as Puget Sound’s estu­ar­ies, rivers and streams,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Rick Larsen.

“Over the last fifty years, the LWCF has helped to pro­tect and restore green spaces like Ebey’s Land­ing Nation­al His­tor­i­cal Reserve, Chuck­anut Bay and the Wild Sky Wilder­ness for the enjoy­ment of cur­rent and future generations.”

“This pack­age as a whole is a huge win for pro­tect­ing the nat­ur­al resources and beau­ti­ful lands this coun­try has to offer,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Schrier.

“I was very hap­py that the Yaki­ma Basin Inte­grat­ed Plan was includ­ed in the Pub­lic Lands pack­age. Many groups with diverg­ing opin­ions all came togeth­er with the com­mon goal of pro­tect­ing our del­i­cate Pacif­ic North­west ecosys­tem from a chang­ing cli­mate for decades to come. This could become a mod­el through­out the coun­try on how to col­lab­o­rate to pro­tect our nat­ur­al resources.”

“We are thrilled by the over­whelm­ing pas­sage of the pub­lic lands pack­age in the new, pro-envi­ron­ment House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” said League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers Pres­i­dent Gene Karpin­s­ki in a news release.

“While last year’s Repub­li­can-led Con­gress shame­ful­ly let the Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund expire, this bill is a major step for­ward for con­ser­va­tion by per­ma­nent­ly restor­ing LWCF and pro­tect­ing more than two mil­lion acres of pub­lic lands and waters. Per­ma­nent LWCF reau­tho­riza­tion is a major accom­plish­ment, and LCV urges Con­gress to seize this pos­i­tive momen­tum to pro­vide LWCF with full and ded­i­cat­ed funds to end the chron­ic under­fund­ing of this crit­i­cal pro­gram that boosts access to parks and pub­lic lands for all communities.”

Here’s a run­down of the major pro­vi­sions that ben­e­fit Wash­ing­ton, cour­tesy of Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell’s press office. The word­ing in each list item has been edit­ed by NPI for brevi­ty and to remove redun­dant language.

  • Methow Head­wa­ters Pro­tec­tion Act: Will per­ma­nent­ly pro­tect the Methow Val­ley water­shed by remov­ing 340,000 acres of Okanogan-Wenatchee Nation­al For­est from poten­tial min­ing development.
  • Yaki­ma Riv­er Basin Water Enhance­ment Project Phase III Act: Autho­rizes an inte­grat­ed and col­lab­o­ra­tive approach to address­ing water chal­lenges in the Yaki­ma Val­ley. Will restore ecosys­tems and fish­eries, ensure com­mu­ni­ties have access to water, help reha­bil­i­tate and repair the Wap­a­to Irri­ga­tion Project, and extend water sup­plies for farm­ers in times of drought.
  • Wild­fire Man­age­ment Tech­nol­o­gy Advance­ment Act: Will increase safe­ty for wild­land fire­fight­ers and bring fed­er­al fire­fight­ing agen­cies across the coun­try into the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry through the use of GPS (Glob­al Posi­tion­ing Sys­tem) and unmanned air­craft systems.
  • Moun­tains to Sound Green­way Nation­al Her­itage Act: Will des­ig­nate 1.5 mil­lion acres of land stretch­ing along the I‑90 cor­ri­dor from Seat­tle to Ellens­burg as one of the Pacif­ic Northwest’s first Nation­al Her­itage Area.
  • Nation­al Vol­cano Ear­ly Warn­ing and Mon­i­tor­ing Sys­tem Act: (a North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ty): Improves our vol­cano mon­i­tor­ing and ear­ly warn­ing capa­bil­i­ties and strength­ens exist­ing mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems, includ­ing the Cas­cades Vol­cano Obser­va­to­ry in Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, to help keep com­mu­ni­ties and trav­el­ers safe.
  • Nation­al Nordic Muse­um Des­ig­na­tion: Includes lan­guage des­ig­nat­ing the Nordic Muse­um in Seat­tle as the Nation­al Nordic Muse­um, rec­og­niz­ing the museum’s unique work to pre­serve, cel­e­brate, and edu­cate the Amer­i­can pub­lic about Nordic his­to­ry, cul­ture, and art.
  • Mar­itime Wash­ing­ton Nation­al Her­itage Area Act: Will des­ig­nate a major­i­ty of West­ern Washington’s shore­line as a Nation­al Her­itage Area to help pro­mote mar­itime-relat­ed tourism, eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and mar­itime his­to­ry as told through Wash­ing­ton State’s muse­ums, his­toric ships, fish­ing cul­ture, and oth­er activ­i­ties. This will be one of Washington’s first Nation­al Her­itage Areas, along with the Moun­tains to Sound Greenway.

After so many years of inac­tion by Con­gress on envi­ron­men­tal pri­or­i­ties, it’s a relief to see this bill pass with such sweep­ing mar­gins. This is a reminder of what our leg­isla­tive branch can accom­plish when it is func­tion­ing properly.

NPI applauds the adop­tion of S.47. This was long overdue.

Now for the heav­ier lift: leg­is­la­tion to address the cli­mate crisis.

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