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Public Lands Protection Bill Nears Passage in U.S. House

In early February, Colorado Reps. DeGette (D-CO-1), Crow (D-CO-6), Neguse (D-CO-2) and Perlmutter (D-CO-7) reintroduced a plan to permanently protect public lands in Colorado, California, and Washington.

The bill, H.R. 803 – Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, was considered by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday and is expected to be scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives later this week. Several measures in the bill could affect Council members, including a measure that would withdraw 200,000 acres from future oil and gas development in Colorado’s Thompson Divide.

Additionally, the legislation includes the Grand Canyon Protection Act, which would permanently halt new mining claims around the Grand Canyon. In total, the bill bars new oil and gas and mining claims from 1.2 million acres of public land. 

President Biden supports the bill, saying it follows recommendations of scientists who say the U.S. must conserve at least 30% of U.S. lands and ocean by 2030 to safeguard the health and productivity of natural systems. The bill is also supported by several environmentalist groups. 

Republicans introduced several amendments that would require approval from counties most directly impacted by these regulations. Rep. Boebert (R-CO-3) said the act would close 510,000 acres in her district. Another amendment would have delayed implementation of the mining restrictions. None of these amendments were approved in committee. 

The eight individual public land bills included in the package are:

  • The Colorado Wilderness Act — Originally sponsored by DeGette, the Colorado Wilderness Act will protect more than 660,000 acres in 36 areas across Colorado.
  • The CORE Act — Introduced by Neguse, the legislation would protect 400,000 acres to support the state’s multi-billion-dollar recreation economy. (H.R. 577)
  • The Grand Canyon Protection Act — Introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3), the legislation would permanently withdraw more than 1 million acres of federal land north and south of Grand Canyon National Park from any future mining claims and leaves valid existing claims intact.
  • The Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act — Introduced by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-2), the bill would expand nine existing wilderness areas in Northwest California and establish eight new ones.
  • The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act — Introduced by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), the legislation would create two new potential wilderness areas and two new scenic areas in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument.
  • The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act — Introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-27), the measure would expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, establish a new National Recreation Area, and designate 30,659 acres as wilderness.
  • The Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act — Introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), the bill would expand the existing Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by adding 191,000 acres to the Rim of the Valley Corridor. (H.R. 1075).
  • The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act — Introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6), the legislation would designate 126,544 acres on the Olympic Peninsula as wilderness and another 5,346 as potential wilderness.

For more information about the Council’s advocacy efforts, contact SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley.

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