13 March 2019
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“All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively the land.”
– Aldo Leopold
President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a massive package of public lands legislation made up of more than 100 individual bills that were introduced by 50 senators and several U.S. House members.
Those include measures to:
Formerly known as the Natural Resources Management Act, the bipartisan bill, S. 47, was renamed the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act in honor of Dingell, a long-serving member of Congress who died last month at the age of 92.
“President Trump knows that federal lands are meant to provide both peace and prosperity for the American people, and signing this bill allows us to continue managing public lands in a balanced way,” David Bernhardt, acting Department of Interior secretary, said in a statement 1. “This bill is extremely beneficial to the American people, and I look forward to working with Congress and local communities to implement the many local conservation wins within the bill.”
Highlights of the bill include permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, expanded hunting and fishing opportunities on dozens of national wildlife refuges and thousands more acres of other public lands, and a provision allowing archery hunters to carry unarmed bows across National Park Service land.
In a news release 2, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the bill also “advances important North Dakota priorities.” Among those priorities, the bill streamlines the process for transferring titles from the Bureau of Reclamation to local authorities, said Hoeven, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That aligns with legislation Hoeven introduced to transfer the title for the Oakes Test Area to the Dickey-Sargent Irrigation District in the southeast part of the state.
The bill also includes legislation Hoeven and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced to improve and expand the North Country Scenic Trail, which runs from New York to North Dakota.
The grassroots group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers called Tuesday’s signing of the bill a “significant victory for public lands sportsmen and women.”
“Together, the public lands grassroots nation rose up to ensure the passage of this historic bill,” Land Tawney, BHA president and CEO, said in a statement 3. “We wrote letters, we made phone calls, we met with our elected officials and we traveled from across the country to Washington, D.C., and together we made our voices heard. Today, we can celebrate a victory that has been years in the making.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the president’s effort to achieve U.S. energy dominance while working with Congress to create a conservation legacy “exceeds the accomplishments of his recent predecessors” with the signing of the lands package.
“This law will benefit every state and clear the deck of issues that we’ve been working to resolve for years,” Murkowski said in a statement 4. “From providing access for sportsmen to creating new economic opportunities for local communities, this is a good, balanced measure. We built it through a team effort that drew strong support from both parties in both chambers. Today is a triumph for good process and good policy, and this bill is a win for Alaskans and all Americans.”