The Democratic trifecta can lead to some great things. That includes a big public lands bill that’s been in the making for a long time. It’s actually a series of laws and includes some very important public lands goals:
The Grand Canyon Protection Act: The Grand Canyon Protection Act makes permanent an existing 20-year mineral withdrawal, which prohibits new mining claims on approximately one million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park and was enacted by the Department of the Interior in 2012. Uranium mining has for decades polluted waters and harmed the health and welfare of Tribal communities and threatens the land, water, and wildlife that make the Grand Canyon so extraordinary. The value of the Greater Grand Canyon to the American people and to future generations is dependent upon preservation of the functioning ecosystem, the hydrological connections of the many seeps and springs feeding the Colorado River, and habitats and connective corridors for native species. These factors also contribute directly to the health of the greater Grand Canyon region and to the considerable tourism-based economy of the region. This bill would permanently protect this iconic landscape for generations to come.
Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act: The Northwest California Wilderness Recreation and Working Forests Act would protect 260,000 acres of wilderness and 379 miles of wild and scenic rivers. This section creates a 730,000-acre restoration area to protect and restore forests, including ancient redwood forests, and improve water quality while reducing fire risks. It also establishes a partnership of federal, state and local entities to coordinate restoration of public lands damaged by illegal marijuana cultivation. Finally, the proposal helps build a strong outdoor recreation economy by providing new opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, motorized vehicle use, horseback riding, camping, hunting, and fishing.
Colorado Wilderness Act: The Colorado Wilderness Act would permanently protect more than 600,000 acres of public lands as wilderness. These areas include Redcloud and Handies Peaks – the tallest mountains in the lower 48 under the management of the Bureau of Land Management – as well as some of Browns Canyon National Monument . A recent survey of western Colorado voters found that 68% support designating additional public lands in Colorado as wilderness, and the Colorado Wilderness Act responds to that desire.
For whatever reason, these sorts of public lands issues have become more niche, even in the left of center world, than they were 30 years ago. But protecting these lands would be huge victories for the present and for the future. We need more of them. Celebrating the wins we do get is part of that. Whether it passes the Senate is a bit up in the air I guess, but these bills do tend to get some Republican support because they can be popular back home in the West. So I guess we will see.