Cantwell’s Public Lands Package Overwhelmingly Passes House, Heads to President for Signature into Law

Bipartisan legislation permanently reauthorizes Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has invested more than $675 million in over 600 Washington state projects; Package also protects Methow Headwaters from mining, addresses water challenges in Yakima Basin, designates Mountains to Sound Greenway as National Heritage Area, updates volcano monitoring and early warning systems, provides 21st century technology to firefighters around the country

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Senator Maria Cantwell’s bipartisan public lands legislation that includes significant wins for public lands across Washington state. The House passed the legislation 363-62 without any amendments. After previously passing the Senate by a vote of 92-8, the legislation now goes to the president’s desk for signature into law. 

“Since Scoop Jackson championed the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the 1960s, it has given us so many opportunities for outdoor recreation and development,” Senator Cantwell said. “There’s nothing better than just being outdoors – it’s such an important part of our Northwest culture. I am glad the House passed this important legislation, and I hope the president will sign it expeditiously.”

The Natural Resources Management Act, which Cantwell introduced with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expired on September 30, 2018. It was the second time in three years Congress failed to reauthorize the program.

Often described as one of the country’s most important conservation programs, the LWCF is a key component of Washington state’s booming outdoor recreation economy, which generates over $26 billion in annual consumer spending and supports 200,000 Washington jobs. Since its creation in 1965, the fund has invested over $675 million into more than 600 projects across the state, including popular recreation sites like Olympic National Park, Lake Chelan State Park, and Riverside State Park. Thousands of Washingtonians have benefitted from access to trails and outdoor recreation opportunities, as well as clean air and water preservation that would not have been possible without the funding provided by the LWCF. 

The bipartisan package passed by the House today also includes a number of other public lands priorities authored by Senator Cantwell that are important to Washington state: 

  • Methow Headwaters Protection Act: The bill includes the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, which will permanently protect the Methow Valley watershed by removing 340,000 acres of Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest from potential mining development.
  • Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act: The bill includes the bipartisan Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project Phase III Act, which authorizes an integrated and collaborative approach to addressing water challenges in the Yakima Valley. The bill will restore ecosystems and fisheries, ensure communities have access to water, help rehabilitate and repair the Wapato Irrigation Project, and extend water supplies for farmers in times of drought.
  • Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act: Cantwell’s public lands package includes the Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act, which will increase safety for wildland firefighters and bring federal firefighting agencies across the country into the 21st century through the use of GPS and unmanned aircraft systems.
  • Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Act: The public lands legislation includes Cantwell’s Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Act, which would designate 1.5 million acres of land stretching along the Interstate 90 corridor from Seattle to Ellensburg as one of the Pacific Northwest’s first National Heritage Area.
  • National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act: The bill includes the bipartisan National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act, legislation to improve the nation’s volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities and strengthen existing monitoring systems, including the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Washington state and Oregon, to help keep communities and travelers safe.
  • National Nordic Museum Designation: The bill includes language designating the Nordic Museum in Seattle as the National Nordic Museum, recognizing the museum’s unique work to preserve, celebrate, and educate the American public about Nordic history, culture, and art.
  • Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act: S. 47, the public lands package, includes the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act, which would designate a majority of Western Washington’s shoreline as a National Heritage Area to help promote maritime-related tourism, economic development and maritime history as told through Washington state’s museums, historic ships, fishing culture, and other activities. This would be one of Washington’s first National Heritage Areas, along with the Mountains to Sound Greenway. 

In total, the legislative package contains more than 110 individual bills and represents 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. 

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