President Donald Trump should sign into law the John D. Dingell Jr. ConservationConversation, Management and Recreation Act. It makes smart investments in the nation's finest real estate from coast to coast.
After two years of federal indolence over management of public lands, the passage of a sweeping act to protect natural resources is a great relief to the Northwest.
President Donald Trump should sign into law the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act. It makes smart investments in the nation’s finest real estate from coast to coast.
Especially encouraging is that Congress found broad consensus for a policy with lasting environmental benefits. Kudos to champions U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who spent two years building support for the public-lands smorgasbord.
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Not everyone is pleased with every element of the bill, but compromise is essential to make progress in a divided Congress. The bill passed the Senate 92-8 on Feb. 12 and the House 363-62 on Feb. 26.
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The act will designate more than 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, creates four new national monuments and designates 2,600 miles of new national trails.
Perpetual support for public lands is provided. The act makes permanent the Land and Water Conservation Fund, instigated by the late U.S. Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the mid 1960s.
The fund uses a portion of revenue from federal oil and gas leases to pay for investments in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and parks and recreation projects. It has provided $675 million for Washington state alone, supporting more than 600 projects including investments in Olympic National Park, Seattle’s Gas Works Park and Saint Edwards State Park on Lake Washington.
Cantwell regularly fought to maintain the fund, which in recent years was politicized as a vehicle to debate public land acquisitions and expired last September.
Washington state benefits directly from several provisions in the act. It permanently protects the headwaters of the Methow River by prohibiting mining in 340,000 acres of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, improves volcano-monitoring systems and authorizes federal support for a decade of work on the massive Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project. It also makes strides to improve safety and coordination during wildfire responses, in part by calling for new drones and tracking systems.
The act also creates the Northwest’s first National Heritage Area along the Mountains to Sound Greenway from Seattle to Ellensburg, designating 1.5 million acres along the Interstate 90 corridor.
Last but not least, it gives national stature to the Nordic Museum in Ballard, designating it as the National Nordic Museum.
Protecting and investing in public lands is a core value in the Northwest. But the entire country benefits from this positive, cooperative effort by Congress to support public lands, increase opportunities for outdoor recreation and preserve precious areas.