The Senate Overwhelmingly Passes The Natural Resources Management Act

This past Tuesday, the Senate passed the sweeping Natural Resources Management Act (NRMA) in outstanding bipartisan fashion: 92-8. The NRMA contains provisions that positively affect every state, such as the expansion of National Parks and Wilderness Areas, scenic river designations, improves fish and wildlife habitat, increases access for sportsmen on public lands, and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), to name several key components. In any event, this is a massive win for conservationists and outdoorsmen alike, and is a refreshing change of pace from the normalized stalemates in Congress over issues like wall funding.

The NRMA is a massive public lands package–662 pages–containing dozens of provisions that all seek to conserve and improve federal lands and access to them. However, of upmost importance was the permanent reauthorization of the LWCF, which ended September 30, 2018. The LWCF uses royalties collected from offshore oil and gas drilling operations to ensure the protection of our public lands and water. The money from the LWCF, “is intended to protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects”. While the LWCF will enjoy perpetual funding, the spending of those funds will not be mandated by Congress–an ongoing problem for the Fund. According to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, federal projects that have been placed on the back-burner total $30 billion and include “places vulnerable to development such as the Florida Everglades, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Civil War battlefields in Virginia, our shrinking Northern forests, and other precious places around the country”. At no cost to taxpayers, this program enjoys consistent bipartisan support and for more than 50 years has facilitated the preservation of millions of acres of federal lands.

Photo of the Iconic North Umpqua River -Allie Blaine

In Oregon, the NRMA–once signed into law–will establish 99,653 acres of Forest Service land as the “Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area” (Pictured Above). The name “Frank Moore” represents a true American and a dedicated servant to Oregon’s lands and waters. Frank Moore was a WWII veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, recipient of the National Wildlife Federation Conservationist of the Year award and the Wild Steelhead Coalition Conservation Award, and a Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame inductee. According to the NRMA’s text, this newly established Special Management Area will conserve and enhance “the natural character, scientific use, and the botanical, recreational, ecological, fish and wildlife, scenic, drinking water, and cultural values of the Special Management Area”. Frank and Jeanne Moore are embodiments of responsible stewards of our lands and water. Let us all follow the Moore’s example, as we continue to enjoy public lands and water.

Photo courtesy of @Ryanbrennecke

The NRMA’s benefits do not end in Oregon–not even close. The wildness and beauty of Yellowstone and Washington’s North Cascades National Parks will be protected from mining operations, as the NRMA will permanently withdraw federal mining permits from adjacent lands. Millions of acres of land will be protected throughout the country because of new federal designation. Around 620 miles of rivers in seven states would be protected from damming and development through the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including but not limited to: 69.2 miles of Oregon’s Elk River and 27 miles of New England’s Nashua River. The Act will also promote the expansion and enhancement of fishing and hunting opportunities on federal lands.

Clearly the NRMA contains tons of provisions that will do great things for our country’s public lands and waters and benefit a wide variety of outdoor recreation activities. Thankfully, with strong support in the Republican-controlled Senate, the NRMA should pass with ease in the Democrat-controlled House, when Representatives consider the measure after the February recess. Contrary to the current administration’s attacks on the environment–the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and dismantling of Obama-era environmental regulations (these are only two examples of many)–President Trump is expected to sign the Act into law, once it passes the House.

No piece of Congressional legislation is perfect, the NRMA included, but this Act gives outdoorsmen and public land enthusiasts all around the country a much-needed victory. Hopefully, this forward-thinking, bipartisan legislation can continue into the future and address other burdened environments, such as the water crises in South Florida or diminished steelhead and salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest.

If you would like to weigh in on the Natural Resources Management Act, reach out to your Representative and ask them how this Act would impact your respective locality and/or urge them to vote ‘Yes’ when the measure is considered on the House floor. Also, check out these articles by Outside Online and the Washington Post for more information!

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