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Anatomy of a Land Bill

Anatomy of a Land Bill

Often found at the very beginning of the legislation, this section defines the terms used in the text.

Findings and/or Purpose
Findings are than statements of facts that serve to provide a rationale for the legislation. A purpose section is sometimes included, which is a straightforward statement of what the legislation will do.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is where your "resource values" and your pillars plug in. Language in this section is extremely important and groups proposing third way alternatives should seek professional assistance when crafting this section. Assistance is available from a variety of sources, including BRC.

Designation of Wilderness or other special interest areas
If your legislation includes Wilderness or any other special designation, its usually found in the front of the bill. NOTE: If your area contains sensitive or endangered species, or other sensitive natural resource, this is the place to prove you are the REAL environmentalist by establishing specific management that would actually benefit the bird, bug, bog or beast that's threatened. For example, a Utah bill included the establishment of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and funded a Habitat Conservation Area to protect the endangered desert tortoise.  Both of these areas allow some motorized and mountain bike uses.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Special area designations within third way proposals are often used to address long running recreation management conflicts by formally establishing recreational uses.  This will provide some certainty that those uses will continue into the future. An example is the Bridgeport Winter Recreation Area in the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wilderness bill and the Cow Mountain Recreation Area in the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act. (See samples)

Administration, travel and transportation management  and specific management provisions
Administration section is often used to specify which agency will manage your designation. An Administration section is often included for each designation your legislation establishes. These can very general or very specific and direct the managing agency to develop travel plans.

As noted above, some legislation is very specific about management issues such as recreation, livestock grazing, hunting and other uses. You can get as specific as you want, including identifying the travel plan within the legislation itself. Many third way alternatives require the managing agency to complete a recreation or travel plan within a certain period of time.

This is another section that is extremely important to craft the language carefully. Proponents should seek assistance with these important sections.

Insofar as providing protection from development, this section is where that happens. You notice in our samples that the withdraw section is the same language as a stand alone wilderness bill. This removes or "withdraws" all ability for mineral, oil and gas and other heavy commercial uses.

You can expect Wilderness activists to say your bill isn't as good as protection as Wilderness. This is a common myth. Any of the third way proposals carry the exact same level of protection from development as any Wilderness bill.

Buffer Zone
The term buffer zone is often misunderstood. You won't be establishing a buffer zone around Wilderness, rather, you will ensure such buffer zones will not be created. This section bans the creation of any protective perimeter or buffer zone around any area designated as Wilderness. This section will state that simply because an activity or use on land outside Wilderness can be seen or heard within the Wilderness shall not preclude the activity or use outside the boundary of the Wilderness.

Access to private lands
The fact that provisions guaranteeing private citizens access land they own and pay taxes on are a regular feature in land use legislation is a sad commentary on how far federal land managing agencies have strayed from their mandates.

Water rights and other valid existing rights
Almost all land bills these days will include provisions reinforcing congress's intent to protect valid existing rights and some will specify that no Federal Reserve Water Right is established or implied.

Land disposal, transfer and acquisition
Believe it or not, some of the largest commercial development of public lands was made possible by a Wilderness bill. Third way proposals often allow public lands near communities to be sold or transferred to the state or local government. These sections also provide instructions on where and how the money from land sales can be spent.

Land transfers between state and federal agencies are also fairly common. And some bills have provided funds to buy lands from "willing sellers."

Third way alternatives often include releasing Wilderness Study Areas. WSA's are most often found on BLM lands and many are not suitable or manageable as Wilderness. As WSA's can only be removed by act of congress, third way alternatives often provide opportunities to do this.

Authorization of appropriation
Usually at the end of legislation, this provision is supposed to provide for funding to implement the provisions in the bill.


Sample Legislation