Congress votes in favor of historic public lands package
By: PeopleForBikes Staff
Update 3/12: On the afternoon of Tuesday, March 12, President Trump signed the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47) into law.
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Congress passed historic public lands legislation that will help protect the places we love to ride and create new opportunities for outdoor recreation, including bike riding. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate passed the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47) with overwhelming bipartisan support, and blocked several amendments that sought to undermine the legislation. The president is expected to soon sign this bill into law.
Most important, the legislation permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program Congress established in 1964 to fund land acquisition. The LWCF, which is funded primarily by off-shore federal oil and gas leases, has fallen victim to regular debates as to whether it should continue be authorized. Last fall, the program expired because Congress failed to reauthorize it.
Additionally, the legislation expands on a program President Obama started and will provide every fourth grader — and up to three adult guests — free access to all public lands for a year. This includes access by bike and will help more children realize the value of our public lands and outdoor recreation.
Along with our industry partners, PeopleForBikes strongly advocated for this legislation and we welcome all the bipartisan support it received.
“We’re grateful for the vision shown here by both branches of Congress and encouraged by the new opportunities this legislation will create for bike riding,” said PeopleForBikes president Tim Blumenthal. “All Americans will benefit from the increased federal investment in the trails and parks where we love to bike.”
Not everything important to the bike industry was ultimately included in the final package. Several key pieces of bipartisan legislation were not part of the package, but we plan to encourage Congress to approve them this year:
- An innovative funding solution for maintenance backlog: Our public lands have billions of dollars in maintenance backlog, which includes trails and other elements of the visitor experience for cyclists. Proposed legislation would leverage some of the energy revenues on public lands for maintenance backlog, which would help to fund the massive backlog that exists today. We strongly support efforts to reduce the backlog and, due to its current size, an innovative solution will be necessary. The current bill in Congress is called the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act and continues to be a priority of the outdoor recreation community.
- Permit streamlining: Several legislative efforts have been made to streamline permitting on federal lands, all of which help get more people on public lands in an efficient manner. As bicycle tourism becomes more popular, bike tour companies and guides are struggling to comply with complicated permitting regulations, especially when trip include multiple jurisdictions (e.g., BLM and National Park Service lands). We strongly support comprehensive streamlining of the permitting process.