photo: Nicholas A. Tonelli

As anyone who pays even casual attention to the news can attest, we’re living in politically polarized times. Sometimes it feels like the divide is too wide and deep to bridge, and consensus on things that matter will always be just out of reach.

And then something happens that shows it’s still possible, against all evidence to the contrary, to find common ground and get things done.

This time the common ground spans millions of acres of newly designated wilderness areas and public lands from coast to coast. It covers hundreds of miles of rivers now classified as wild, scenic, or recreational. It includes six new National Park Service units, dozens of newly protected wildlife habitats and National Park-adjacent sites, and a cornucopia of related infrastructure projects.

Best of all, the Natural Resources Management Act – overwhelmingly approved in Congress Tuesday and now awaiting the president’s signature – comes with a permanent source of funding to acquire and improve many more acres by way of the reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Permanent reauthorization means that LWCF, among America’s most popular and successful conservation programs since its inception more than 50 years ago, will be available indefinitely, at no cost to taxpayers, to fund conservation efforts and development of outdoor-recreational resources in all 50 states.

This was no squeaker – it was a resounding and unambiguous win for the environment, the public good, and the future of democratic self-governance.

Here in Pennsylvania, it means that federal dollars will continue flowing to protect and enhance some of our most valuable assets, from neighborhood parks and greenways to iconic sites like the Flight 93 National Memorial and the Appalachian Trail. And that means an even more solid foundation for the continued growth of our thriving outdoor industry, which already employs hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and generates more than $29 billion in direct consumer spending each year.

Like almost any positive accomplishment, the legislation isn’t perfect. And it took longer to navigate the corridors of power than it should have, leaving millions on the table in Pennsylvania alone since the previous authorization expired in September. But in the end, it’s hard to be anything but heartened and energized by the margin of final passage: 363-62 in the House and 92-8 in the Senate, including members from both parties in Pennsylvania’s delegation. This was no squeaker – it was a resounding and unambiguous win for the environment, the public good, and the future of democratic self-governance.

PEC is proud to join with our friends and allies in the environmental community, our many partners in government and business, and the countless Pennsylvanians who cared enough to make their voices heard, in celebrating some of the best legislative news in recent memory.