The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one beneficiary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The news of a sweeping public lands conservation bill passed by the U.S. Senate last week sounds good on its surface — and it is. But it’s only one part of a larger environmental picture that needs more attention.

Still, it’s a victory worth celebrating by everyone who is concerned with protecting our natural environment, in North Carolina and elsewhere.

The bill makes permanent the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which had previously been passed only for years at a time. Its passage places more than 1 million acres of wilderness throughout the country under federal protection.

The fund has benefited every county in North Carolina, Kevin Redding, the executive director of the Piedmont Land Conservancy, told the Journal. It provides open access for hunting, fishing and hiking as well as protection for wildlife refuges, historic sites and national parks.

“This victory was a long time in the making, and it is the result of the steadfast efforts of many who care deeply about America’s natural treasures,” Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said in a statement. “By making the Land and Water Conservation Fund a permanent program, we ensure that our country is always able to preserve our magnificent parks and outdoor spaces. Protecting this program is the right thing to do for our children, grandchildren, and countless generations so that they may come to enjoy the great American outdoors as we have.”

“I’m proud of my colleagues who joined me in this fight, and I look forward to the House passing this legislation soon,” he said.

Burr deserves a lot of credit for making the program permanent, a goal he’s worked toward for years.

It’s also a rare bipartisan victory, with 92 senators voting in favor and only eight opposed. The bill is expected to pass the U.S. House with equally strong support.

But this legislation is being passed at a time when our environment is under attack from other quarters. The Trump administration is working aggressively to strip away protections on public lands and open them to mining and drilling. The administration is also threatening our shores, in North Carolina and elsewhere, by pushing efforts to drill offshore, a proposition that endangers our environment and a thriving tourism industry.

While most advanced countries are increasing their investment in renewable and clean energy, the U.S. lags behind. This hurts us environmentally and economically.

The New Green Deal recently promoted by U.S. House Democrats is indeed “green” in the sense that it needs more time to ripen. Many of its goals may be worthwhile, but it doesn’t help that Democratic leaders released what they now say was an unfinished version that plainly reached too far, calling for such things as upgrading or replacing “every building in America,” and “every combustible-engine vehicle” with no feasible way to pay for the changes. Back to the drawing board.

Our environment is a national treasure, a shared resource, that can’t be wasted on one avaricious generation. We must preserve it — land, air and water — for our children’s and grandchildren’s future.

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