Senate Bill 47, renamed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act in honor of the recently passed Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, flew through Congress with little fuss. The bill, which we’ve covered extensively, passed the Senate early last month, then sailed through the House with no debate, and yesterday landed on President Trump’s desk. He signed it, and with that, likely much quicker and easier than many hoped, the biggest public lands package in decades is now law.
In total, some 2.5 million acres of public lands and more than 500 miles of wild river are protected under the bill. From hikers and mountain bikers, to birdwatchers and anglers, hunters and climbers, there’s a lot to like for pretty much any outdoor enthusiast in the bill. Still, it was a product of compromise, so there are parts of the bill that some conservationists are upset by. Alaska will see some areas of public lands transferred to native Alaskan veterans, for example. A controversial natural gas pipeline in Denali is allowed in the bill, too.
The permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the headliner of the bill, which will ensure hundreds of millions of dollars flow into natural resource management every single year, forever. But lesser-known provisions like a new 21st Century Conservation Service Corps that will put kids and veterans to work in public lands, and the protection of huge areas of steelhead and salmon habitat, just to name two of many, are likely to be historically important pieces of conservation legislation.
For that matter, Congress setting aside caustic political differences to pass a popular package of public land funding has to buoy our optimism at least a little heading into what’s sure to be a divisive 2020 political year.
Photo: Rene Holst