Heinrich Champions Major Public Lands Package On Senate Floor
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 6, 2019) -Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, spoke on the Senate Floor in support of a package of bipartisan public lands legislation that includes major conservation victories for New Mexico.
The Senate is currently considering S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, and is expected to vote on final passage later this week. The bill includes measures that Heinrich has championed including wilderness protections in the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments, the Every Kid Outdoors Act, permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and provisions from the bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.
An avid sportsman and conservationist, Senator Heinrich serves as the co-chair of the bipartisan Outdoor Recreation Caucus and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. He has long worked to protect New Mexico’s public lands, watersheds, and wildlife for future generations. He is a champion for the outdoor recreation industry, which is a major economic driver in New Mexico, particularly in rural communities.
Senator Heinrich’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
I rise today to celebrate the landmark conservation measures that we are about to vote on here in the United States Senate.
As the senator from a state that proudly calls itself the Land of Enchantment, I know how much our public lands mean to New Mexicans.
These are the places where generations of families have gone to explore our natural wonders and learn about our rich history and culture.
Hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping on our public lands are part of our identity in New Mexico.
This relationship with our land and water is fundamental to who we are.
These activities also fuel a thriving outdoor recreation economy that supports nearly 100,000 jobs in New Mexico alone.
Nationwide, outdoor recreation generates nearly $900 billion of consumer spending each year and directly supports more than 7 million American jobs.
That’s why I have fought to pass this legislation that will open additional access and create recreation opportunities on our public lands to support this important part of our economy.
I want to commend our Chairman, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, our Ranking Member, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and our former Ranking Member, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington.
We are going through a frustrating political era here in Washington, and there just don’t seem to be many things we can agree on these days.
But the package of public lands bills we are now considering on the floor reflects Chairman Murkowski, Ranking Member Manchin, and Senator Cantwell’s leadership.
And it demonstrates their willingness to put aside partisan rancor and do the hard work required to build bipartisan consensus.
I am proud that we are moving forward to pass these bills that have earned broad, bipartisan support in our committee to conserve our public lands, create new outdoor recreation opportunities, and build on the success of our nation’s most effective conservation programs.
I want to quickly highlight some of the major victories in this bill for my state.
First and foremost, I am proud that we are passing two bills to advance the community-driven conservation visions for New Mexico’s two newest national monuments: the Río Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
From the tops of Cerro de la Olla and Ute Mountain, to the depths of the Rio Grande Gorge, the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico is one of the most spectacular places on earth.
The historic monument designation for the Río Grande del Norte was the direct result of the tireless efforts of the local community who were dedicated to protecting this area for future generations.
The legislation we are voting on establishes two new wilderness areas within the monument: the Cerro del Yuta Wilderness and Rio San Antonio Wilderness.
By designating the most rugged and unique habitat in the Río Grande del Norte as wilderness, we can protect the monument's natural heritage for our children and for generations to come.
We are doing the same thing for southern New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is incredibly rich in cultural and natural history.
It includes six stunning mountain ranges — not just the well-known Organs, but also the Robledos, East and West Potrillos, Doña Anas, and Sierra de las Uvas.
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act will safeguard sensitive cultural, historical and natural treasures in the monument.
And wilderness designation for several of the most rugged and unique areas in Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks will help promote the monument as a world-class destination.
President Obama based his 2014 national monument designation on legislation introduced by Senator Udall and myself.
But as with the Río Grande del Norte, only Congress has authority to create additional federally protected wilderness.
We can now assure permanent protection for the wildest places within the national monument - including the Organ, Potrillo, Uvas and Robledo mountains, as well as the Aden Lava Flow and Broad Canyon.
I want to express my deep gratitude to the diverse coalition of stakeholders from throughout New Mexico who worked for decades to make the Río Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments a reality.
From tribal leaders, to local elected officials to sportsmen, ranchers, land grant heirs, acequia parciantes, small businesses and conservation groups, so many New Mexicans came together to make this possible.
And I want to thank my colleague, the senior senator from New Mexico, Tom Udall and former Senator Jeff Bingaman for their leadership and partnership in getting this over the finish line.
These two monuments protect places New Mexicans have long recognized as national treasures in their backyards.
And once we pass this legislation, we will put a capstone on years of work to make these monuments national models of community-driven, landscape-scale conservation.
I have no doubt that future generations will be grateful for what we are voting on.
And speaking of future generations, I’m pleased that this public lands package also includes my bipartisan bill, the Every Kid Outdoors Act.
I want to thank Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee for joining me as the lead Republican sponsor of this bill.
The Every Kid Outdoors Act will allow every fourth-grader in America to visit our nation's parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and public lands free of charge—and bring their families along with them.
Many of you might not know that long before I became a senator, one of my first jobs in New Mexico was as the director of Cottonwood Gulch Expeditions—a 90 plus year old experiential education organization that takes children out into the backcountry of our public lands.
Connecting kids to the outdoors can inspire a lifelong connection to conservation, while reaping all of the health benefits that go along with an active lifestyle.
Some of my favorite memories are from adventures on our public lands with my wife, Julie, and our sons, Carter and Micah.
I want all kids to have the same opportunity to fall in love with the outdoors.
Since 2015, the Department of the Interior has offered fourth graders and their families free entrance to all federally managed public lands.
The Every Kid Outdoors Act codifies this effort into law and will encourage the creation of more educational opportunities for all of our children on their public lands.
I am so excited that we are encouraging a new generation of kids to explore the rich natural and cultural history on display in our parks, forests, and monuments.
After all, they are the future stewards of these special places.
I also want to celebrate that we are voting to permanently reauthorize what I believe has been one of America’s most successful conservation programs: the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In New Mexico, LWCF has protected iconic landscapes like the Valles Caldera, Ute Mountain, and Valle de Oro, without costing taxpayers a single dime.
It has also provided for community projects like baseball and soccer fields, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
The broad support LWCF has had from both Republicans and Democrats over the last half century is a testament to how well the program has worked all across the nation.
However, despite our best efforts to save LWCF, congressional inaction allowed the program to expire last year.
I am proud to say that once we pass this package we will no longer need to worry year after year about renewing this clearly successful program.
Now LWCF funds can continue being put to work protecting our drinking water, providing public land access, and funding our neighborhood parks.
Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude once more to Chairman Murkowski for working with me to advance provisions in this package to improve public access on our public lands.
I’m especially pleased that we are passing my legislation, the HUNT Act, which will improve access to public lands wherever hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation are permitted.
With that, I would like to encourage all of my colleagues to support this bipartisan package of bills.
I am confident they will grow our outdoor recreation economy, promote access to our public lands, and support the sustainable use of our resources.
What we are voting on will go a long way toward ensuring that the outdoor places we all treasure will be protected for future generations of Americans to enjoy.