Take Action: Public Lands Package Passes the Senate, Moves on to the House

The Senate passed a sweeping public lands package, which includes key measures for the Pacific Northwest. Now it's time to ask the House of Representatives to move the package forward.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
February 14, 2019

A far-reaching public lands package has passed the Senate, and will now head to the House of Representatives. This is a huge step for bipartisan legislation that will benefit wild places and outdoor recreation across the country. The package includes measures The Mountaineers has spent years advocating for, such as the Land & Water Conservation Fund, Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area, and Methow Headwaters Act. Thousands of you answered our calls-to-action on behalf of these causes. Thank you!

Please join us in asking the House members to move this legislation forward and thanking the senators who made this possible.

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What’s in the Package?

The package includes bills you’ve helped us champion for years. The public lands package would:

  • Permanently reauthorize the Land & Water Conversation Fund. This critical nationwide conservation program has been in danger of expiring for years. Learn more.
  • Establish the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area. This designation would protect 1.5 million acres of public and private land from Seattle to Central Washington. Learn more.
  • Protect the Methow Headwaters. This measure would safeguard one our state’s premier recreation areas from industrial-scale mining claims. Learn more.

The package will also create 1.3 million acres of new wilderness areas, 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas, and 620 miles of wild and scenic rivers. Our partner organizations across the country worked on many of these bills. Outdoor Alliance highlighted our collective efforts in this piece.

Many news outlets are lauding this package as an example of how government is supposed to work. The vast majority of Americans support public lands, and our lawmakers listened.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke to the bipartisan effort on the Senate floor, “The lands bill is the product of over 100 pieces of legislation addressing the management and preservation of some of our nation’s most precious natural areas. It touches every state, features the input of a wide coalition of our colleagues, and has earned the support of a broad, diverse coalition of many advocates for public lands, economic development and conservation."

We’d like to thank Senator Murkowski (R-AK) and Washington's own Senator Cantwell (D-WA) for championing this work from and their leadership on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

What Needs to Happen Next?

  • The House of Representatives needs to process and pass the package. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) has indicated he and Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) are ready to move forward with the effort.
  • Contact your House representative to encourage them to move the package forward. Let them know how important public lands are to you, and that they need to move quickly.
  • It’s also time to thank the senators that made this possible! For Washingtonians, Senator Cantwell remained steadfast in championing this work – we are so appreciative of her commitment to public lands.

We’ve made it easy for you to contact both your House representative and thank the appropriate senators - just click the action button below.

As always when you advocate for our wild places, personalizing your comments with something special about your connection to the outdoors makes a significant difference to staffers and legislators.

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Michael Montgomery
Michael Montgomery says:
Sun, Feb 24, 2019 2:45 PM

Section 2404 of the bill authorizes national parks to "collect fees for medical services". I confirmed with a ranger that this would allow charging for search and rescue.

The bill also extends $64M of annual funding of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (which in turn funds USGS mapping) through 2023.

In addition to the MSG NHA, it also establishes the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area which includes all of Washington's salt water coastline. There's a really fancy PDF about it here:

https://dahp.wa.gov/sites/default/files/NationalMaritimeHeritageAreaStudy_2.pdf

This paragraph was interesting:

"Because Heritage Areas do not
affect ownership, have any regulatory
implications or any significant
administrative requirements, the
boundaries are not necessarily closely or
legally defined. Participation in a Heritage
Area is voluntary, and properties that are
included in the Heritage Area boundaries will
not see any changes to the use or regulation
of their property as a result of designation."

So basically, the NHA designation is more of a vehicle for funding than anything else. The designated local groups are required to submit a management plan and hold semiannual open-to-the-public meetings detailing how they spent any granted funds.

The bill also establishes the "Every Kid Outdoors program", which allows fourth graders (or homeschooled 10-year-olds) to request a permit granting free access to federal lands.

For us Seattleites:

The Nordic Museum located at 2655 N.W. Market Street, Seattle, Washington, is designated as the “National Nordic Museum”.