Ten Big Wins For Land, Water and Wildlife

Public Lands Package Is a Game Changer for Conservation

This week the President signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. Aptly named for the late Congressman and conservation champion John D. Dingell, Jr., this bill marks the biggest public lands package to be signed into law in decades. The bill passed with overwhelming support in both chambers of Congress (85% in the House and 92% in the Senate); reminding us once again that protecting our nation’s public lands and wildlife brings Americans together.

From permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to conserving millions of acres of land, hundreds of miles of wild and scenic rivers, the passage of the WILD ACT and a sportsmen package that’s been over a decade in the making – there is a lot to celebrate!

#1 Making the Outdoors Great Since 1964

Elk peeking out of the bushes in Colorado. Photo by Cheryl Fenn.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped preserve America’s outdoors heritage by conserving wildlife habitat, protecting public lands and supporting outdoor recreation in all 50 states since 1964. In addition to permanently reauthorizing our most successful conservation program, this bill expands access to our nation’s public lands and waters for hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts by committing 3% of the Fund’s monies to improving recreational access and reducing barriers to keeping public lands open to the public.

#2 Keeping it WILD

green sea turtle
Green sea turtle. Photo by USFWS.

The WILD Act is bipartisan legislation that protects threatened wildlife like sea turtles and tigers. The act also protects habitat by funding efforts to combat invasive species like Asian carp and cheatgrass. And includes funding for the Theodore Roosevelt Genius Grants to ensure we continue to support innovative ideas to stop poaching and conserve wildlife.

#3 NO to Mining and YES to Wildlife

Yellowstone cutthroat trout
Spawning Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Photo by Jacob W. Frank/NPS

Thanks to leaders like U.S. Senator Jon Tester (MT), the bill bans mining at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park. More than 30,000 acres of the Yellowstone River watershed in Montana are now safe for wildlife like the native Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. The bill also bans mining on 340,000 acres of public lands in the Methow Valley in central Washington State keeping habitat intact for migrating mule deer, song birds and other wildlife. .

#4 Safeguarding the Desert

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Randall Ward.

California wildlife like the bobcat and Desert bighorn sheep have more room to roam. The bill increases protections for more than 500,000 acres of public land in the California desert by designating 328,864 acres as wilderness, adding 43,000 acres to Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks.

#5 More Wild Rivers Please

Nashua River
Nashua River. Photo courtesy of The Work of 1000 Civic Engagement Program.

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers system was created in 1968 to protect our nation’s most iconic and vulnerable waterways. In 2018, there were over 200 rivers across the United States protected by this designation. Upon the signing of this bill, hundreds of miles of river are protected from development—including 63 miles of the Green River in Emery County, Utah, Oregon’s salmon rich Rouge River and the once heavily polluted Nashua River that runs from Massachusetts through New Hampshire. Not to mention the over 660,000 acres of public lands in Utah now designated as wilderness, and the nearly 250,000 acres of new recreation areas!

#6 A Path to Oregon’s Devil’s Staircase

Old-growth Douglas fir
A massive Douglas fir within the last remaining old-growth forest in Oregon’s coastal mountains. Photo by Mark Hougardy.

In western Oregon’s old-growth forests there is a remote and incredible waterfall named Devil’s Staircase. Thanks to this law there are now protections for the watershed surrounding Devil’s Staircase waterfall with a 30,000 acre wilderness designation, and designates more than 250 miles of streams as wild and scenic.

#7 Wildlife Win in New Mexico and Colorado

Pronghorn. Photo: USFWS/Mountain-Prairie Region

The bill protects more than 260,000 acres of wilderness in two national monuments in New Mexico: the Rio Grande del Norte northwest of Taos, and the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks surrounding Las Cruces. Both national monuments contain important habitat for wildlife and the 21,500 acres of newly protected wilderness in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is a critical wildlife corridor for pronghorn, elk, mule deer, black bear and cougar moving between New Mexico and Colorado.

#8 Getting Kids Outside!

Public lands are where our memories are made. Thanks to the work of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, the Every Kids Outdoors Act is contained in this new law and provides free access to national parks and federally managed public lands and waters to all fourth graders and their families across the country. This is a great way to promote outdoor recreation and education for many generations to come. #FindYourPark!

#9 Making Habitat Safe for Migratory Birds

Sandpipers. Photo by Steve Voght.

The bill reauthorizes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act through 2022, protecting 4.5 million acres of habitat for more than 350 species of birds that migrate across North America, between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada, including shorebirds like sandpipers and songbirds like warblers. These species migrate south through the U.S. to Central and South America for the winter and back to the U.S. and Canada in the summer, and fill an important role in pollination and pest control.

#10 Keeping Utah’s Spectacular Canyons Quiet Places

bighorn sheep
Utah’s Bighorn sheep. Photo by Donna Johnson.

Utah is known for its incredibly dramatic red rock landscape and wild, quiet canyons. Now, motorized vehicles will be kept at bay from disrupting the wilderness experience in Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons. Other wins for Utah’s wildlife and wild places is the protection of the 850-acre Jurassic National Monument along with the expansive San Rafael Swell Recreation Area.

These victories for protecting the places we share with wildlife would not have happened unless you and thousands of people like you raised your voice for conservation. Thank you!