President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act on March 12, designating 1.3 million acres of new wilderness among other public lands provisions. Many of the act’s congressional supporters praised it for being the most sweeping of its type in a decade. The act is a conglomeration of more than 100 separate bills.
This legislation permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, although it does not guarantee funding.The federal fund was created in 1964 to protect America’s natural areas. It has broad bipartisan support and is financed by $900 million annually in offshore drilling revenue, though Congress determines how much of that money goes towards the fund’s conservation purposes. It expired in September 2018 and lost more than $403 million during the following months, according to the LWCF Coalition, a group that advocates for the fund. Trump’s 2020 budget proposal does not include any money for the fund, though the president’s budget is essentially a non-binding recommendation.
Additionally, the act opens all public lands to hunting unless specifically prohibited. It reauthorizes and funds the Neotropical Migratory Bird Act, protecting habitat for 368 migratory bird species. Further, it continues a program that allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide assistance to landowners who take certain steps to protect key habitats. The act also permanently withdraws federal mineral rights for parcels of land near Yellowstone National Park and North Cascades National Park, preventing future mining in those areas.
The bill marks the creation of new public lands in Appalachia, including Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument and Camp Nelson National Monument in Kentucky, which was recently designated by the president under the Antiquities Act. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Georgia will be expanded by eight acres. — By Jen Kirby