The bill’s bipartisan support marks another victory for conservationists amid a year dominated by unprecedented political division.

House Passes America’s Conservation Enhancement Act in Victory for Public Lands
James Marshall

At a time when politics seem to drive the chasm-like divide between Americans ever wider, there appears to at least be a trend of bipartisan support when it comes to conserving our nation’s wild regions.

That was evident once more recently when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, or ACE, which will establish and reauthorize a number of programs designed to protect wildlife—and the habitats they call homeagainst invasive species and predators.

Introduced by U.S. Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Tom Carper, D-Del., the act, which received immense support from organizations like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and National Wildlife Federation, among dozens of others, will now await the signature of President Donald Trump.

“Right now, when Washington is divided on so many issues, we are grateful that the U.S. House of Representatives rallied together across party lines to enact bipartisan investments to restore wildlife populations and conserve our outdoor heritage,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a release.

“At a time when one-third of wildlife face heightened risk of extinction, the ACE Act restores essential fish and wildlife habitat like wetlands and the Chesapeake Bay, eradicates wildlife disease—especially chronic wasting disease—addresses invasive species, and engages the next generation of sportswomen and sportsmen. We urge President Trump to swiftly sign this common-sense conservation measure into law.”

The ACE Act will encompass several key conservation measures, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, including:

  • Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act until 2025
  • Reauthorizing the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Act until 2025
  • Reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program until 2024
  • Authorization of funds to combat the threat of invasive species
  • Reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program until 2025
  • Establishing a program to provide grants to states and Indian tribes to compensate livestock producers for losses due to federally protected predators like wolves or grizzly bears
  • Commissioning a National Academy of Sciences study on the pathways and mechanisms of the transmission of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, in the U.S.
  • Establishing a CWD task force to develop an interstate action plan for state and federal cooperation relating to the disease
  • Encouraging partnerships among public agencies and other interested parties for promoting fish conservation
  • Establishing a Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize for technological innovation to reduce human-predator conflict using non-lethal means

The bill’s bipartisan support marks another victory for conservationists amid a year dominated by unprecedented political division.

In June the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, the most dramatic allocation of resources made for the conservation of public lands in decades.  

Barring any unforeseen hiccups in the House, the bill, which was approved by a 73-25 vote, is expected to provide a two-pronged funding source that will not only double the money allocated to the Land and Water Conservation Fund—to $900 million a year—but also designate nearly $2 billion a year for maintenance and restoration efforts.

Proponents of the legislation anticipate the new bill will be as prosperous economically as it will for conservation, with efforts expected to create at least 100,000 new jobs in public land areas that have been economically devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.