Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT), Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced H.R. 4257, the Advancing Conservation and Education (ACE) Act.
The bipartisan legislation aims at facilitating state trust land exchanges for parcels locked inside designated wilderness and other federal conservation areas. The ACE Act helps equalize funding for education in public lands states by enhancing the revenue-generating capacity of lands designated for the purpose of funding education.
“This legislation is a win for Utah, a win for school kids, and a win for conservation,” said Rep. Stewart. “Exchanging state inholding for land outside of protected areas will allow states to generate more revenue, provide increased protection, and help support rural economies. The ACE Act proves we can come together to solve complex public land issues.”
“I am pleased that we can collaborate on common sense legislation together as Democrats and Republicans in both the House of Representatives and Senate. By cutting red tape between state land trusts and the federal government, we can protect our most precious wilderness areas, while generating more revenue for local governments and schools that desperately need it,” said Rep. Polis.
“Inholdings present challenges for both public land managers and state trust land commissioners because differing policies and missions of the respective agencies can lead to conflicts over management. By exchanging state inholdings for land outside of protected areas that is more appropriate for development and more likely to produce revenue, the ACE Act will solidify protections for designated areas like national parks and wilderness while increasing revenues for state trust land beneficiaries like schools and hospitals,” said Sen. Heinrich. “I'm proud to partner with Senator Flake to find bipartisan and pragmatic solutions that will increase revenues for our public schools and improve access to the outdoor places Westerners hold dear.”
“This bill represents an absolute win-win situation. It makes management of federal land more efficient, while providing additional revenue for state land trusts and schools. These are two worthwhile goals that when combined represent a genuine opportunity for those in the West,” said Sen. Flake.
The ACE Act has diverse support, including from the Western States Land Commissioners Association and The Wilderness Society.
“The ability of our state land commissioners to utilize state trust lands to raise revenue for education is made more difficult when these trust lands are surrounded by federal conservation areas. The ACE Act is a win-win solution that will help our land commissioners better generate badly needed funds for schoolchildren while completing federal conservation areas so that they can be properly protected,” said Harry Birdwell, President, Western States Land Commissioners Association and Secretary of the Commissioners, Oklahoma Land Office.
“This legislation will better secure America's parks and wilderness while supporting rural economies and providing revenue for schools. Through this bill, our public lands will be better protected and school kids will come out ahead,” said Paul Spitler, Director of Wilderness Policy at The Wilderness Society.
The full text of the bill can be found here.