U.S. Congress has passed the largest public lands bill in roughly six years. In the December 12, 2014, bipartisan breakthrough, over 250,000 acres will be protected as wilderness, over a dozen national parks will be expanded or established and 140 miles of rivers will be protected. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of acres will be withdrawn from mineral development across the West.
“First and foremost, we thank our Outdoor Industry Association members and partners who worked at the local level in states like Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Montana and New Mexico to protect these places,” said Steve Barker, Interim Executive Director at the Outdoor Industry Association. “Your voices were heard and after today’s vote there are more protected places to hike, mountain bike, fish and play outdoors.”
Several public lands bills were attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, a “must-pass” bill that had overwhelming support in both the House and Senate. The president is expected to sign the bill early next week, making these non-partisan, non-controversial public lands bills into law.
Unfortunately, the bill also contains some concessions including two provisions that will negatively impact outdoor recreation by opening by a copper mine next to a popular climbing area in Arizona and handing over 70,075 acres of forest for development in Alaska.
The public lands bills that passed were vetted at the local level and have spent years lagging in Congress. During last April’s OIA Capitol Summit, outdoor industry executives lobbied members of Congress to support protection for Hermosa Creek Watershed in Colorado, Alpine Lakes in Washington and Columbine-Hondo in New Mexico.
These bills will improve access and recreation infrastructure for hikers, anglers, motorized users, mountain bikers and backpackers. They also provide certainty that outdoor industry companies need to continue to make investments and build businesses in and around these areas.
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