Senate passes huge conservation bill, adding a million acres of new wilderness

Bill must also pass in House, be signed by Trump to become law

Senate passes huge conservation bill, adding a million acres of new wilderness
Fog rises in the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument near Patten, Maine. (Source: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

WASHINGTON (AP/Gray News) — The Senate has approved a bill that revives a popular conservation program, adds a million acres of new wilderness, expands several national parks and creates four new national monuments.

The massive measure combines more than 100 public-lands bills that add more than 350 miles of wild and scenic rivers and 2,600 miles of federal trails. It designates nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas. The bill also withdraws 370,000 acres in Montana and Washington state from mineral development.

The Senate approved the bill, 92-8, sending it to the House.

The bill permanently reauthorizes the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country. The program expired last fall after Congress could not agree on language to extend it.

If it clears the Democrat-controlled House, it would require President Donald Trump’s final support to become law.

The administration has generally pursued a deregulatory agenda in conservation matters, including a presidential proclamation shrinking the size of two national monuments in Utah in December 2017 and a Department of Interior proposal in January 2018 to open up more of the nation’s coastline for offshore oil and gas drilling.

The Department of Interior also recommended liberalizing protections at 27 national monuments following a 2017 review ordered by Trump.

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