Wed, 14 Apr 2021

Land protection bill passes House, faces opposition in Senate

Robert Besser
02 Mar 2021, 14:40 GMT+10

WASHINGTON DC: An additional 3 million acres of land in the United States will come under federal protection following the House of Representatives passing a preservation bill.

The lands are part of federally-owned properties in Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona.

The bill was approved by the House by a margin of 227 to 200 votes, which were largely split along party lines.

Among the provisions of the bill is the banning of new uranium mining on land surrounding the Grand Canyon, delivering wilderness designations to 1.5m acres of federal land, and protecting 1,000 river miles by adding them to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

"This is one of the largest public lands protection bills to ever go before Congress," Kristen Brengel of the National Parks Conservation Association told The Guardian. "Wilderness designation is the strongest protection there is to ensure the lands will never be developed. And it can't be undone with the stroke of a pen," she added.

Called the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act, the bill is supported by the Biden administration, which has pledged to protect 30 percent of U.S. land from development by 2030.

During Thursday's debate on the bill, Republican congressmen noted that the law would prevent the fighting of fires in areas close to wilderness sites in California and Colorado, adding new burdens for land managers.

"This bill won't help the environment but will, instead, kill jobs and imperil our national security and American energy dependence," said Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman, the highest-ranking Republican member on the House natural resources committee.

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