April 12, 2008

House passes conservation program

By Aaron Sadler
The Morning News

Over objections from some Western-state lawmakers and gun-rights advocates, the House passed a conservation system that covers more than 26 million acres of federal land, mostly in the West.

The vote was 278-140.

The National Landscape Conservation System Act codifies a program created in 2000 as a way to protect and conserve national historic trails, scenic rivers, wildlife areas and national monuments. The system encompasses about 10 percent of the land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

Opponents maintained that the legislation would tighten restrictions on activities on the lands. Amendments to the bill protect grazing rights and ensure states may manage hunting, fishing and trapping on the lands.

Supporters said putting the system into law allows BLM to manage the some 800 units as comprehensive entities and may motivate Congress to provide more money to protect the lands.