Monday, May 06, 2013

Optimism for Congress to Break Stalemate, Protect New Public Lands

As the 112th Congress gaveled to a close last January, many wondered if Washington D.C.’s toxic political environment would continue to compromise popular land conservation bills. Setting aside lands for hunters and anglers, hikers and backpackers, mountain bikers and horseback riders is a uniquely American phenomenon that has remained a bipartisan endeavor for more than a century. But that came to a halt during the 112th, which was the first Congress since World War II not to protect a single new acre of public lands. Now, only a few months into the 113th Congress, we’re beginning to see potential signs of a thaw as elected officials from both sides of the aisle have begun to introduce legislation to protect America’s most prized landscapes. Just last week Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2013. The bill would protect 108,000 acres of the San Juan National Forest, while also preserving all historic uses of the forest, including mountain biking, motorized recreation, selective timber harvesting and grazing. The bill mirrors a piece of legislation introduced by Senator Bennet during the previous Congress with one exception: This time around, Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO) joined the effort by introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives. The bipartisan effort by members of Colorado’s Congressional Delegation comes on the heels of a similar bipartisan push in Montana. There, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Steve Daines (R-MT) are working together to protect the pristine North Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park from new oil and gas development and mining...more

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