Bipartisan Lands Package

S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and former committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., reintroduced a bipartisan package of more than 100 public lands, natural resources, and water bills. The lands package was placed directly on the Senate calendar through the Rule 14 process for expedited consideration.

Policy Highlights

S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, reflects the bipartisan Senate-House agreement reached near the end of the last Congress to bundle together over 100 individual lands bills. This bipartisan package strikes a balance between creating new opportunities for natural resource and community development, primarily in western states, with limited, locally-supported conservation. It will improve public lands management, protect treasured landscapes, and increase public access for recreation while protecting private property rights.

The provisions in this bill were sponsored by 50 Senators and cosponsored by nearly 90 Senators in the 115th Congress. The bills in this package have undergone extensive public review in the House, the Senate, or both. The majority of the measures have passed one chamber.

New Opportunities for Economic Development Authorizes and directs dozens of land exchanges and conveyances to states and local governments for economic development. Examples include a conveyance to Custer County, South Dakota for an airport expansion; an exchange in Bullhead City, Arizona for the development of city parks and recreation along the Colorado River; and a conveyance to Fannin County in Texas to restore and open to the public Lake Fannin Park. 

Enhances and Expands Sportsmen’s Access on Federal LandsFor the first time, makes it clear in statute that all Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest System lands shall be open to hunting, recreational shooting, and fishing unless explicitly closed for safety or other justified reasons documented through established public processes. Facilitates the construction and expansion of public target ranges, including ranges on BLM and national forest lands.

Responsible Water Management Facilitates critical endangered species recovery efforts, while also allowing greater local control of water management decisions that will unleash private investments that save water, protect public safety, and enhance fish protections and wildlife habitat.  

Improved Land Management Adjusts boundaries of existing federal land use designations, consolidates checker-boarded land ownership, and directs off-highway vehicle recreation to newly federally designated areas. This will allow for more efficient, common-sense management of federal lands. Examples include adjustments to wilderness study area boundaries to mandate hazardous fuel reduction to protect fire-prone communities in Oregon; land exchanges with the State school trust in Utah and local government in Nevada to consolidate federal ownership; and the designation of more than 200,000 acres of new off-highway vehicle recreation areas in the California desert.  

Measured, Responsible Conservation Permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund with meaningful reforms, including a specific allocation for state-side projects and another for access projects; parity for the territories and Washington, D.C. to receive program funds; and criteria to be considered when acquiring lands. Designates approximately 1.3 million acres of wilderness in three states and withdraws approximately 400,000 acres in two states. These designations and withdrawals all have strong local support.

Keeps Promises to Veterans Fulfills a decades-old promise to Alaska Natives who served in the Vietnam War by providing them the opportunity to apply for an allotment of land in Alaska. 

Preserves Sites of Historical ImportanceDesignates three new national monuments in Mississippi and Kentucky, including the home of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and creates a new historical park and National Historic Network to mark the Reconstruction Era in South Carolina.

Protects Americans from Natural HazardsStrengthens and unifies the nation’s volcano monitoring system to provide continuous situational awareness of high-threat volcanoes, like the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.