What the New Congress Means for Public Lands

We enter 2019 with a new Congress, a new House majority, and new committee leaders. Check out how all this will affect our outdoor advocacy efforts in the New Year and beyond.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
January 21, 2019
What the New Congress Means for Public Lands

January 3, 2019 marked the start of the 116th Congress, and with it a new landscape for outdoor advocates to navigate. Here are some key changes to keep in mind as we work to conserve the public lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond:

New Committee Leadership

With Democrats taking the majority in the House, the House Natural Resources Committee chair is now Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), a congressman with a strong record of supporting public lands. Under his leadership, we should see much more oversight of federal agencies like the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency. Pro public lands legislation should also have an easier time moving through the House, although these bills still face an uphill battle in a deeply divided Congress.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will also see changes. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) continues as the committee’s chairman, while Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) steps in as the ranking member, replacing Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) who is moving to the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. As ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Cantwell consistently advocated for public lands. The Mountaineers and our partners will work to secure the same leadership from Senator Manchin. We also look forward Senator Cantwell’s continued leadership as she stays on the committee, just not as ranking member.

Want to learn more about how congressional committees work? Check out this video for a quick breakdown.


Last fall we advocated for a bipartisan, public lands package, which included many bills we helped shape and rallied our community to support. The legislative bundle would’ve permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established the Mountain to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area, and protected the Methow Valley from industrial-scale mining claims.

Unfortunately, between the current government shutdown and obstruction in the Senate, the package didn’t move. The good news is Senators Murkowksi and Cantwell reintroduced this package just a few days ago. We appreciate their leadership and will work to get this package passed in 2019!

Often legislators hear a lot when things aren’t going well, but don’t hear many “thank yous”. This is a great opportunity to practice slactivism and thank these senators for championing these bills. Here’s some language you can post to your social media accounts:

Sample Social Post

As an outdoor enthusiast, I’m heartened to see @SenLisaMurkowski and @senatorcantwell reintroduce a public lands package, which includes bills to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, protect the Methow Valley, and designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area. Thank you! https://bit.ly/2HuTZdV

Government Shutdown

Of course, reopening the government remains the most urgent issue on the the 116th Congress’s to-do list. Our nation is reeling under the shutdown, and public lands are no exception. The longer it continues, the more wild places, recreationists, guiding businesses, and gateway communities will suffer. To learn more about this issue and what you can do about it, check out our piece Shutdown and Its Impact on Public Lands

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Anita Penuelas
Anita Penuelas says:
Jan 22, 2019 06:15 AM

Thank you for all this great information and for suggestions on how to get involved. Our legislators need to hear from us about the issues we really care about.