The Senate passed by an overwhelming majority a bill to conserve and protect over a million acres of federal lands across America, including legislation to shield Yellowstone National Park’s northern gateway from mining.
It also permanently authorizes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which since 1964 has channeled royalties paid by energy companies drilling offshore to national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other environmentally-important public lands.
Now, the Natural Resources Management Act, which the Senate approved 92-8, will go to the House of Representatives, where it is also expected to pass with ease.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, hailed the Senate’s passing of the bill.
“This package gives our country a million acres of new wilderness, protects a million acres of public lands from future mining, permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund and balances conservation and recreation for the long term,” Grijalva told The New York Times.
“It’s one of the biggest bipartisan wins for this country I’ve ever seen in Congress.”
Among the handful of Senators to vote against the bill, who were all Republican, was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Under the main bill sits multiple pieces of related legislation, including the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) reintroduced to the Senate in January.
It protects mountains in the Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana, which sit just north of Yellowstone National Park, from mining.
“Two fly-by-night companies are proposing risky gold-mining projects in Montana, north of Yellowstone National Park,” Joe Josephson, Senior Montana Conservation Organizer at the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said in a previous statement.
“Both companies have leases on private lands, surrounded by public national forest, but this law will limited their ability to expand onto public lands.
“Our economy, outdoor heritage, and communities don’t run on foreign-owned gold mines. They thrive because of Yellowstone National Park, our public lands, agriculture, a clean, free-flowing Yellowstone river, and Montanans.”
The Greater Yellowstone Coalition did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the bill’s passing.
The Trump administration is trying to unravel environmental protections to make it easier for oil, gas, and mining companies to operate.
President Donald Trump could delay the conservation bill’s passage into law by refusing to sign it off, sending it back to Congress.
However, Congress can force the legislation through in defiance of the White House if each chamber votes by a two-thirds majority to pass it again.
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.