Senate Passes Sweeping Conservation Package

Bipartisan effort to protect wilderness, national parks being called most wide-ranging in 10 years
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2019 2:33 AM CST
Senate Passes Sweeping Conservation Package
Frost clings to a bison in Badlands National Park in South Dakota on Friday.   (Ryan Hermens/Rapid City Journal via AP)

The Washington Post calls it a "paradoxical win," but that's not stopping members of the US Senate from high-fiving on their latest bill: a bipartisan conservation effort that protects 1.3 million acres of wilderness, creates or expands 10 national parks (including Joshua Tree and Death Valley), pulls hundreds of thousands of acres of land from mining, protects hundreds of miles of rivers, and sets up four new national monuments. It's being called the most wide-ranging public-lands package in 10 years, with the "win" part coming in not only because of its conservation victories, but also due to its across-the-aisle support. The measure, which passed Tuesday 92-8, merges nearly 100 separate bills to offer "something for nearly everyone" in every state, per the AP, and chances look good that both the House and President Trump will sign off on it as well.

The "paradoxical" is mentioned because the Trump administration up to this point has seemed intent on pulling back on public-land protections, including reducing the size of two national monuments in Utah in what the Post called "the largest reduction of public-lands protection in US history." Being hailed as perhaps the biggest change is the final signoff on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which diverts money made from offshore drilling to conserve wildlife preserves, national parks, and local sporting venues. Among the new national monuments established is the Mississippi home of civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers. As Intelligencer notes, this all adds up to the US Senate pulling off a "rare good thing." "It took public lands to bring divided government together," GOP Sen. Steve Daines of Montana said after the vote, per the Post. (Read more public land stories.)

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