House passes public lands bill seen as a win for conservation

By:  Julianna Rennie
Source: The Olympian

The House of Representatives Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation aimed at safeguarding nearly 2 million acres of public lands and permanently continuing a federal fund that supports conservation projects around the country. 

The bill now goes to President Donald Trump. He’s expected to sign it, according to a White House spokesperson. 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that uses revenue from offshore oil and natural gas drilling to support the conservation projects, has lapsed several times in its 50-year history.

Since it was created by former Washington state Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the program has supported 600 projects and contributed $675 million in the state. The iconic Gas Works Park in downtown Seattle was converted from a power plant using Land and Water Conservation Fund money. 

For Washington state, the package includes provisions to implement a water resource management plan in the Yakima River Basin, prohibit mining in the Methow Valley, and designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway a national heritage site. 

It also modernizes early warning volcano monitoring systems and firefighting technology.

There are measures in the package that roll back public lands protections. One provision allows hunting in national parks to control wildlife population, and another opens up Alaskan public lands to privatization. 

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a bill co-sponsor, said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see the legislation as a boon for the outdoor economy, which contributes more than $887 billion and 7.6 million jobs.