White House urges passage of House public lands package

White House urges passage of House public lands package
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The White House released a policy statement on Tuesday saying the administration “strongly supports” a House package aimed at protecting lands and waters in Arizona, Colorado, California and Washington state.  

The legislation, called the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, combined eight bills that have previously been introduced. It is expected to receive a House vote this week. 

Altogether, the legislation would provide extra protection to about 1.5 million acres of public lands by designating them as wilderness, preventing new uranium mining on about a million acres near the Grand Canyon and preserving 1,000 river miles by adding them to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, according to the Natural Resources Committee.

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The White House statement said the bill “puts in place protections for some of our nation’s most iconic natural and cultural resources and safeguards recreational opportunities for the benefit of current and future generations, while creating jobs and investing in the recreation economy.”

“It is also consistent with the recommendation of scientists that, to safeguard the health and productivity of the natural systems upon which we all depend, the Nation must pursue a goal of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and ocean by 2030,” it added. 

House Republicans are pushing back on some of the legislation’s provisions through a series of amendments, though changes will likely face an uphill battle in the Democrat-led House. 

Among the amendments are measures that would require approval from counties that would be directly impacted by the wilderness designations, delay the mining portion of the bill to ensure the country’s uranium is ethically sourced, and grandfather in prior recreational activities. 

While the legislation itself has a good chance of passing the House, if it is introduced in the Senate, it would still have to contend with the filibuster. 

Last year, a divided Congress managed to pass a major bipartisan conservation bill, but the effort gained traction following support from Republican senators who were facing reelection.