Sweeping Conservation Bill Sails Through Congress

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives approved a sweeping public lands package Tuesday that will expand several national parks and bring under federal protection 1.3 million acres of wilderness in three states.

The bill passed the House 363-62 on Tuesday evening, after sailing through the Senate earlier this month.

“The American people need to know from this Congress that there is opportunity to produce bipartisan wins, whether for conservation or public lands, but more importantly for the people of this country,” Representative Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said on the House floor before the vote. “I think this bill represents that.”

The massive bill bundles together more than 100 smaller pieces of legislation and has wide bipartisan support. In addition to the expansion of the national parks, including Joshua Tree and Death Valley parks, and new land designations, the law creates three national monuments in Mississippi and withdraws 370,000 acres in Washington and Montana from mineral development projects.

The legislation also permanently revives a fund that used federal royalties from offshore drilling to bankroll conservation efforts. The fund, called the Land and Water Conservation Fund, expired last September. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., praised the reauthorization of the fund on Tuesday, saying it has been years in the making.

“It is a major, major piece of legislation,” Hoyer told reporters Tuesday. 

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