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Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.


New Public Lands Protections Within Reach!

Louis Geltman


Update as of 12/20: The public lands package did not pass last night. Although it had a ton of momentum and passionate support from a number of key Senators (thank you to Sen. Murkowski, Sen. Gardner, Sen. Daines, and Sen. Cantwell!), Utah Sen. Mike Lee refused to allow a vote on the package unless the Senate was willing to add a provision barring the future use of the Antiquities Act in Utah. 
We didn't get it passed, but we got it really close. With your help, we look forward to getting it done in January.

When we wrote a few weeks back to talk about the results of the election, we shared that we thought there would be a solid opportunity to pass a package of new protective designations for public lands and rivers before the end of the year. Here’s an update on how things are coming together:

Over the course of this Congress, we have made a lot of progress on land protection bills. But Congress being Congress, they’ve put off actually passing anything until the last possible minute.

There are two committees in Congress—Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) and House Natural Resources (HNR)—that are responsible for the bulk of the bills that we care about as outdoor recreationists. Right now, the staff for those committees, both Democratic and Republican, are working on negotiating a package of bills that could potentially be attached to the bill to fund the government, which needs to pass by December 21 to avoid a government shutdown over the holidays.

For a public lands package to pass, two things need to happen:

  1. Republicans and Democrats on the two key committees need to come to an agreement on what’s in the package; and

  2. Leadership has to agree to bring this package to the floor along with the government funding bill.

Nothing is a lock here, but there is solid momentum, and passing a set of new public lands protections is definitely within reach. To make it all work, though, both parties have to see things they want as part of the deal, and the package has to be attached to another must-pass bill, since it’s not likely to move on its own.

Some of the things that are in the conversation right now include: permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area, Wild Olympics, Oregon Wildlands, the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, and the Emery County Public Lands Initiative.

The most helpful thing you can do right now is to write your members of Congress and let them know that seeing a set of new public lands protections across the finish line this year is important to you. If a broadly agreeable package of bills comes together—which we’re fairly optimistic about—its still going to take a whole bunch of members of Congress reaching out to leadership to ensure these bills make it over the final hurdles.