The Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation that would protect nearly 3 million acres of public land across four Western states and ban future uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.
The package of eight bills, known as the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act, passed in the House mostly along party lines 227-200 and would permanently set aside more than a million acres each in Colorado and Arizona; 821,000 acres in California and 132,000 in Washington.
The White House earlier this week urged passage of the legislation because it would help carry out President Joe Biden's January executive order requiring 30% of U.S. land and waters to be conserved by 2030 but passage in the 50-50 Senate will be a challenge because it will require at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.
The House bill would designate the lands as federally-protected wilderness areas - the highest level of land protection available, putting the area permanently off limits from future road construction, mining, logging and other kinds of development.
It would withdraw nearly 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon in Arizona from future uranium mining claims, a protection long sought by environmental groups.
"We know climate change is going to change the way we look at our land, our nation and ourselves," said Congressman Raul Grijalva, chair of the House natural resources committee. "The more work we do to prepare now and protect the lands and waters we rely on, the better we’ll leave this world for our children and grandchildren.”
The top Republican on the House natural resources committee, Congressman Bruce Westerman, said the legislation would "simply lock up critical resources forever" and "imperil our national security and American energy dependence, tie the hands of federal land managers wanting to conduct necessary forest management activities."
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