Senate committee votes on land protection bills

Dec 15, 2023

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a business meeting yesterday to consider several land protection bills, some of which have been considered many times in previous years but have repeatedly died due to gridlock and dysfunction in Congress. Notably, the committee voted to advance the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, which would protect 420,000 acres of public land in Colorado through new wilderness areas and recreation and conservation management areas. The committee also passed the Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act, which would designate 68,000 acres in the southern portion of the Dolores River corridor in Colorado as a National Conservation Area and Special Management Area. This legislation does not include the Dolores Canyons in Mesa and Montrose counties to the north, which is the most biodiverse contiguous swath of unprotected public lands in Colorado.

Over a dozen other public lands bills moved forward in the meeting, including several bills featured in the Center for Western Priorities’ 2022 Languishing Lands reportwhich highlights 19 Western landscapes that have been proposed for protection through bills that have repeatedly failed to make it through Congress, despite receiving markup sessions. The report found that, as of one year ago, over 16 million acres of public land were unprotected due to inaction by Congress.

“In the face of continuing loss of land to development and a worsening climate crisis, it’s laudable that the Senate is once again spending time on thoughtfully-crafted and broadly-supported conservation bills,” said Center for Western Priorities Policy Director Rachael Hamby. “But we have to be realistic and acknowledge that most of these bills will never see the light of day again. The current Congress struggles to get any legislation over the finish line.”

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden continues to deliver conservation wins that help bring the nation closer to its goal of protecting 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030. The President has protected public lands by designating them as national monuments using his authority under the Antiquities Act. In this calendar year alone, Biden has protected over 1.4 million acres of public land through the creation of three national monuments: Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada; Castner Range in Texas (featured in Languishing Lands); and Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni-Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument in Arizona (featured in Languishing Lands).

Quick hits

CORE, Dolores River bills clear Senate committee

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel | E&E News

Tribes celebrate historic deal with White House that could save Pacific Northwest salmon

NPR | E&E News | The Hill

Two men indicted for alleged bald eagle ‘killing spree’

New York Times | NBC News | Axios

Young Californians allege intentional discrimination in greenhouse gas emissions in lawsuit

The Hill | E&E News

Lithium mining is about to go big on the Colorado River. Here’s what to know

Salt Lake Tribune

Opinion: Permanent protection for the Dolores River is Biden’s opportunity to secure a conservation legacy

Colorado Newsline

$1M in grants offered to Colorado farmers with new ideas about conserving water

Colorado Sun

Who gets the water in California? Whoever gets there first

New York Times

Quote of the day

Even after floating a lot of the rivers in the western U.S., the Dolores had a specialness that I had not experienced before. It not only sustains our communities, farms, ranches, and businesses, it is a place to restore our connection to something greater than ourselves. It is a living entity that deserves recognition and protection.”

—Peter Arlein, outdoor industry professional, Colorado Newsline

Picture This

baby mountain lion screaming

Cat got your tongue?

This week we wanted to highlight some of the ongoing efforts in the Jemez Mountains, including Bandelier, investigating the responses of large mammals to forest restoration treatments and wildfire; in collaboration with NMSU Fish Wildlife and Conservation Ecology, Valles Caldera National Preserve and New Mexico cooperative fish and wildlife research unit.

To identify the resources that female mountain lions need to successfully raise young, a small group of park resource staff and NMSU researchers visited some recent birth sites (also known as den sites or nurseries).

Each young kitten was radio collared and checked for general health and condition. These collars will expand as the kittens grow and allow researchers to monitor the kittens’ development. This research will help researchers better understand where females give birth and what threats and challenges young mountain lions face growing up.

Check back with us as we watch these little mountain lions grow up!


Featured Photo: Proposed Whitehouse addition to Mount Sneffels Wilderness. Photo: Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society