Press Release- Senate narrowly avoids massive rollback on land conservation

Today, January 28, 2015,  the U.S. Senate stood up for America’s public lands by defeating two proposals that would have been devastating to our public lands, putting millions of acres of land at risk for oil drilling and over-development.

“Efforts to undermine the protection of places that provide  clean water, places to hunt and fish, and preserve sacred sites are a slap in the face to Americans who strongly support the protection of our public lands,” said Brian O’Donnell, Executive Director, Conservation Lands Foundation. “The American people support a balanced approach to caring for our public lands, not an assault that tries to roll back decades of public land protections and put up roadblocks to protecting America’s heritage.”

The first provision (Senate amendment 166), which was defeated, would have eliminated protections on millions of acres wilderness study areas, some of our last remaining pristine places.

The Senate also voted down a proposal (Senate amendment 132) that threatened to gut the law that first protected the Grand Canyon and could block the creation of new parks and monuments. This measure would undermine the Antiquities Act, one of our nation’s bedrock conservation laws used by both Republican and Democratic presidents to protect important cultural, historic and natural sites found on our nation’s public lands.

These attacks undermine our nation’s rich conservation heritage and completely fly in the face of public opinion. Recent polling affirms that the American people deeply value our lands and waters and want them better protected for our children and grandchildren.

Protected public lands provide clean water, provide critical fish and wildlife habitat and offer some of the best offer some of our best hunting and fishing grounds. They also provide people with the opportunity to explore the outdoors, supporting the outdoor recreation industry, which contributes $646 billion annually to our nation’s economy.

“Patagonia’s values and success are rooted in protecting the environment. This would take away protections for nearly 17 million acres of public land and is an affront to our business and our core values,” said Lisa Pike Sheehy, Director of Global Environmental Initiatives, Patagonia.

In 2009, Congress passed a law adding Wilderness Study Areas and National Monuments managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the National Conservation Lands, a collection of protected lands that preserves our history, water, wildlife and pristine places, These lands are supported by a network of more than 55 local and regional non-profit organizations, many of which spoke against today’s amendments.

“Ninety percent of the lands managed by the BLM are already available to oil and gas drillers. To undermine the protections of some of our most pristine areas and to make it more difficult to protect public lands is an insult to the local communities who want to see their natural and cultural heritage safeguarded for future generations,” stated O’Donnell.

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