Cantwell Secures Passage of Biggest Public Lands Package in More Than a Decade

Legislation permanently reauthorizes Land and Water Conservation Fund, designates over 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, creates four new National Monuments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the former Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, secured the passage of her major bipartisan public lands package.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a pre-eminent program for access to public lands,” Cantwell said. “It gives local communities the tools and resources to manage public lands, to give more access to the American people, to do the things that will help us grow jobs and preserve against a very challenging and threatening climate.”

The legislation, introduced with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, designates more than 1.3 million acres of new wilderness areas and 694,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas, and creates four new National Monuments, among other major accomplishments.

Often described as one of the country’s most important conservation programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund expired on September 30, 2018, the second time in the past three years that Congress has failed to reauthorize the program. Cantwell’s legislation provides a permanent reauthorization for the LWCF, which has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects throughout the United States since its creation.

The LWCF is also a key component of the nation’s booming outdoor recreation economy, which generates over $887 billion in annual consumer spending and supports 7.6 million American jobs.

Also included in the package is bipartisan legislation introduced by Cantwell and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) to increase firefighter safety by bringing new technology to firefighting agencies across the country. The Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act of 2017 would require the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to begin providing GPS locations for crews on wildfires and to begin using Unmanned Aircraft Systems to scout out and map wildfires in real-time. Wildfire Today has referred to this simultaneous use of mapping aircraft and GPS locators as the ‘Holy Grail’ of firefighter safety.

“Both Washington and Colorado have taken it on the chin time and time again from fires, and we know why it is so important to give firefighters and agencies the best possible tools they can have to locate the fire and locate their firefighters,” Cantwell said.

In total, the legislation contains more than 110 individual bills and is the largest bipartisan package of public lands bills in more than 10 years. It has been endorsed by more than 200 organizations throughout the country, including groups supporting conservation and wildlife preservation, outdoor recreation, and sportsmen and anglers.

The legislation now moves on to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to receive quick passage and move on to the president’s desk for signature into law.

A one-pager with more information on the Senate’s public lands package is available HERE.

Here’s what conservation and outdoor leaders from across the country had to say about Senator Cantwell’s public lands bill:

“This bill is proof our elected officials can work together across political divides. The country needs to protect our cherished natural places, and people need to see our leaders and the outdoor community working together. For those of us who love the outdoors, we are especially appreciative that stalwarts in the Senate from both parties, especially Senators Cantwell and Murkowski, have prioritized this legislative package and have remained united in their commitment to making sure it becomes law,” said Marc Berejka, Director of Government and Community Affairs at REI.

“Today marks an overdue but critical victory for America’s most important conservation funding program and for protecting our wild lands,” said Jamie Williams, President of the Wilderness Society.   “It’s encouraging to see the new Congress immediately moving bipartisan legislation that conserves our land and water for today and for future generations."

“It’s a new year in the U.S. Senate and we finally have a living, breathing and bipartisan public lands package, which will preserve thousands of acres of land for outdoor recreation, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, help get more kids outside and much more to support our nation’s $887 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Government Affairs of Outdoor Industry Association. “We applaud the tireless efforts of many in Congress, the outdoor industry and Americans who value the outdoors for their efforts to move this package across the finish line. While we aren’t done yet, we are close, and urge the House of Representatives to act quickly to pass the public lands package and fund America’s outdoors.”

“Thanks to our allies in the Senate, we have taken a giant step forward in achieving certainty for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and its implementation to provide all Americans with access to great places to enjoy on our public lands and waters,” said Land Tawney President and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Our members on the ground are now more aware than ever before about the critical role of LWCF in our hunting and angling opportunities, our fish and wildlife populations, and our shared lands and waters – and they are committed to House passage and ultimate signature by the president.”