SEMA eNews Vol. 22, No. 9, February 28, 2019

U.S. Congress Passes Comprehensive Public Lands Bill

By Washington, D.C., Staff

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed a comprehensive public lands bill that packaged over 100 public lands, natural resources and water bills into a single measure. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) bipartisan “Natural Resources Management Act” (S. 47) passed both houses of Congress by wide margins and has been sent to President Trump for consideration. 

SEMA strongly supports the bill’s inclusion of the “California Desert Protection and Recreation Act,” which permanently designates six existing OHV areas, including Johnson Valley (expanded by 11,000 acres), Spangler Hills, El Mirage, Rasor, Dumont Dunes and Stoddard Valley.  The provision was sponsored by Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and would protect more than 200,000 acres of off-highway vehicle recreation areas in San Bernardino County. It also expands wilderness designations in the California desert, although it prohibits the Secretary of the Interior from closing any roads or trails that are currently open for motorized recreational access.

S. 47 also includes a provision to permanently designate federal lands within Emery County, Utah. While it would protect most existing OHV routes within the 217,00-acre San Raphael Swell, several trails were lost despite the efforts of SEMA and the off-road community. In total, the bill designates 617,000 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands as wilderness in the area.

Additional provisions in the public lands bill include:

  • Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): The bill permanently authorizes the U.S. Treasury Department to collect funds from oil and gas leases and to deposit those revenues into the LWCF.  The bill also includes important reforms that will continue to expand recreational access to federal lands.
  • National Monuments: S. 47 designates four new national monuments totaling just 1,750 acres of federal land.
  • New Wilderness Designations: S. 47 designates roughly 700,000 acres of federal wilderness in California, Oregon and New Mexico. Most of the land was already designated as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA), a National Monument or an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and treated as de facto wilderness.
  • Release of Federal Wilderness Study Areas: The bill releases 168,000 acres of land from the WSA designation, restoring multiple-use access to these lands.

For more information, contact Eric Snyder at erics@sema.org.

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