The passage of the Natural Resources Management Act in Congress is a monumental success for the protection of our nation’s public lands, and specifically parks and trails in Minnesota. The Act passed the House on Feb. 26 in a landslide 363-62 vote, two weeks after passing in the Senate 92-8 and now awaits the signature of President Trump.
Some of the achievements of the more than 600-page Act are that it will create four new national monuments, expand three national parks, designate 1.6 million acres as wilderness, prevent mining around two national parks. And notably for Minnesota, the Act allows for the re-route of the North Country Trail, which means the stalled development of the foot trail through Minnesota finally has a chance of getting finished.
But, perhaps most significant is that the Act permanently re-authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is the main source of acquisition dollars for the National Parks Services and a significant source of funds for the acquisition and development of state and local parks and trails in Minnesota. Established with bipartisan support in 1965, LWCF legislation dedicated a portion of the earnings generated from offshore oil and gas leasing to be used for conservation projects.
In 2015 LWCF expired and had been limping along with temporary re-authorizations that left it continually in need of legislative action. Its inclusion in the Natural Resource Management Act means that future generations will continue to benefit from the investment it makes to safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans.
Only two Minnesota lawmakers voted against the bill: Rep. Pete Stauber and Rep. Jim Hagedorn.