As an early priority in the 116th Congress, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and former Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) kept a bipartisan commitment from the previous Congress and reintroduced what has informally become known as the public lands package, bill (S. 47). This legislative package includes many provisions dedicated to enhancing public access and opportunities for hunting and fishing in addition to conserving treasured lands and waters important to hunters and anglers and critical habitat for fish and wildlife.
As promised, legislators considered the bill and passed it overwhelmingly with a 92-8 vote in the Senate and a 363-62 vote in the House. In March, the President signed S.47 into law. The legislation, now known as The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, is the most significant public lands legislation passed in a decade.
The following descriptions provide a short overview of the provisions in the law that have been supported by BHA.
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Land and Water Conservation Fund
LWCF is a bipartisan program passed in 1964 by Congress to improve outdoor recreation, increase public access and conserve important public lands and waters. With almost $4 billion invested in federal, state and local projects, LWCF remains the most successful conservation program in U.S. history.
Congress allowed LWCF’s authorization to expire on September 30, 2018 leaving the future of this program hanging in the balance. Under S. 47, LWCF was permanently reauthorized. On April 9, 2019, Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and many other senators introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act (S. 1081), which would fully dedicate $900 million to the program.
Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act
Frank Moore is a World War II veteran who served during the D-Day Allied invasion and stormed the beaches of Normandy. His wife, Jeanne Moore, is a native plant expert. Both have taken many hours of their lives to help maintain and restore rivers and streams throughout Oregon.
The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act provision in S. 47 permanently protects about 100,000 acres of public lands and waters in Douglas County, Oregon. Conserving the watershed will safeguard American’s with clean drinking water, enhance critical wildlife habitat, and maintain a robust local economy. Watch BHA’s film on this incredible landscape.
Methow Headwaters Protection Act
The Methow Headwaters Protection Act provision in S. 47 prevents mineral extraction in the Methow Valley located in the North Cascades, Washington. This national treasure is a critical watershed for fish and wildlife, clean drinking water and the local outdoor recreation economy that generates $150 million annually in consumer spending. The watershed is an ecosystem that is home to cutthroat trout, mule deer and other iconic species.
California Desert Protection and Recreation Act
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA) worked together in finding a common-ground solution on advancing legislation that designates wilderness areas, special management areas and allows renewable energy development on public land. This provision is a prime example of bi-partisanship that involved all stakeholders in finding the desired balance between conservation, recreation and energy development. The process and making of this provision is a model for all future legislative work when dealing with the increasing conflicts between conservation and development in California.
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program Act
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program allows the Fish and Wildlife Service to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners to restore, enhance, and manage private land to improve fish and wildlife habitats. Major goals have been identified by the FWS as core components for the Program: conserving habitat for the benefit of priority fish and wildlife species; broadening and strengthening partnerships; improving information sharing and communication; and, enhancing the Service workforce to with a focus on increased accountability and ensuring agency actions are efficient and effective.
Since 1987, the program has received more than $1 billion in federal dollars and leveraged over $1 billion for partner contributions. This is a 1 to 1 ratio investment. The Reauthorization of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program at current funding levels benefits these collaborative efforts and helps implement critical projects that restore grasslands, wetlands and other habitats important to our critters, including pheasant, canvasbacks, mule deer, and other game species.
S. 47 reauthorizes the program until fiscal year 2022.
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act
In 2000, Congress approved the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) to help protect migratory birds, complementing the wetlands bird conservation efforts accomplished under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act while also supporting efforts to conserve birds throughout their migratory life cycles across North and South America. The NMBCA benefits most of the 368-bird species that breed in the continental United States or Canada and spend the winter in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, or South America. The NMBCA’s competitive grant program has helped benefit more than 3.7 million acres of habitat, promoting long-term conservation of neotropical migratory birds through partner-based conservation, supporting hundreds of public-private collaborations and energizing local, on-the-ground conservation efforts.
S. 47 reauthorizes the program until fiscal year 2022.
Cerro Del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Areas
In March 2013, at the request of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, President Barack Obama designated 242,555 acres in northern New Mexico as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. A provision in S. 47 further enhances wildlife habitat along the northern edge of the monument by designating the 13,420-acre Cerro Del Yuta Wilderness and the 8,120-acre Rio San Antonio Wilderness. Both designations areas provide an important migratory corridor for elk, antelope, bighorn sheep and other game species while also enhancing the local outdoor economy that generates more than $173 million annually.
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