With just a month left in the 115th Congress, so begins the frenzy to pass last-minute bills before the new Congress is sworn in early next year. The lame duck session will likely include several partisan bills before the Democrats take over in the House, and rhetoric about a variety of issues will be swirling as we all get caught up in 30-second sound-bites. However, there is a list of environmental bills that should be high on the priority list for both outgoing and incoming members. You won’t hear about these bills on television because they don’t present a partisan bias-- they are pro-environment, and rightly are not causing a partisan fight. There is no reason that they shouldn’t be passed before this Congress ends.
The Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 was sponsored by Rep. John Curtis in the House (H.R. 5727) and Senator Orrin Hatch in the Senate (S. 2809) and would preserve enormous amounts of land in Utah. The bill would designate 63 miles along the Green River as “Wild and Scenic,” and would establish more than 300,000 acres of National Recreation area in the San Rafael Swell; which in turn would protect the area from disruption from mining and road construction.
Additionally, as the home of one of the largest concentrations of Jurassic-era bones in the world, it would leave room for a Jurassic National Monument in the area.
This bill is a protection for our natural lands and resources, and should not present a partisan issue when it comes before the House or the Senate. The environment can and should be a bipartisan issue; and these bills are some of the few that should be able to pass with nearly unanimous support.
In a similar vein, the Tennessee Wilderness Act would designate nearly 20,000 acres into the Cherokee National Forest and protect the habitats of a variety of wildlife. Sponsored in the House (H.R. 2218) by Rep. Phil Roe and in the Senate (S.973) by Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, the bill has strong local support and would continue to preserve the vast natural lands that exist in Tennessee.
All of the lands in question are privately-owned, so no public lands will be affected; and no roads exist in these areas, so no closures will occur as a result.
A majority of Americans believe that the government’s efforts to protect the environment-- including air quality, animal habitats, and national parks and preserves-- are insufficient. Bills like these and others like them are crucial to maintaining our national lands, and to preserving them so that future generations have the same opportunities to enjoy the vastness of America’s outdoors. They, and environmental issues as a whole, should not be discussed in a partisan manner.
The incoming Congress will lack the membership and leadership of environmental champions such as Carlos Curbelo and Mike Coffman, but that is no justification for tossing environmental issues to the side. These issues go beyond the limits of the climate change debate, and issues such as water conservation, air quality, and preservation of our national lands have an impact on everyday Americans. Our current Congress ought to lay the groundwork for them by passing bills like those discussed above.
The environment brings an opportunity for legislators to put aside partisan differences and come together on an issue that affects us all-- and one that should be a priority for all outgoing and incoming members of Congress.