When the public lands package, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, was signed into law on February 12, it made history with 260 pages of bipartisan conservation legislation to protect national lands, reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and expand National Parks. This package was years in the making, and yet many lawmakers see it as a first step to passing much more legislation protecting and improving the outdoors during this Congress.
So if S.47 was just the first step, what’s next in the lineup?
Recently, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on opportunities to improve recreation on public lands, a crucial first step toward another major public lands and recreation package. American Whitewater’s Tom O’Keefe testified at this hearing, and Outdoor Alliance shared its testimony with the committee as well. Our belief is that there is appetite this Congress to address some important public lands policy improvements to benefit outdoor recreation.
At this point, it seems Congress is likely to prioritize recreation policy before a slew of new protections for landscapes. Some of the landscapes that were protected in the last public lands package took years and years of work to get across the finish line were in process for over a decade, but it’s still important to build momentum toward protecting special places so that we aren’t waiting another five or ten years to protect places.
The major opportunities for second public lands and recreation package include:
Improving recreation through better public land policy: the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, improvements to permitting, dedicated permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and strategies to address the maintenance backlog and secure new funding for recreation infrastructure like trails and river access points.
More landscape conservation: the CORE Act in Colorado; Wild Olympics in Washington; the Oregon Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act in Oregon; Central Coast Heritage Protection Act and Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act in California; and the Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area in Utah.