America’s Conservation Programs Comprehensively Reinvigorated:
“America’s Conservation Enhancement Act” of 2020, Signed into Law by President Trump.
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
“Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it!” (Isaiah 44:23a)
A multi-faceted prioritization of federal conservation programs became a “done deal” on October 30th of 2020—when President Donald J. Trump officially signed it into law—the “America’s Conservation Enhancement Act” of 2020.
The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act provides support for two dozen conservation initiatives around the nation that were rolled into a single piece of legislation … The [new federal statute] authorizes the continuation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program [“Bay Program”], which has coordinated the state-federal Bay restoration effort since 1983. The program supports research, helps assess cleanup progress and provides grants to states, local governments, nonprofits and others. The legislation reauthorizes the Bay Program for another five years at up to $92 million annually. Congress had allocated $85 million for the current year. The [new law] also reauthorizes the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network. Administered by the National Park Service, the network includes more than 200 state parks, museums and historic sites that provide access to waterways and highlight the region’s natural, historic and cultural heritage. The legislation reauthorized that program for five years. It received $3 million in the most recent year.(1)[see Blankenship quote citation below]
This new legislative “package” addresses federal conservation programs in many applications.
America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (ACE Act) is a comprehensive wildlife conservation package. It protects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and enhances recreational hunting and sportfishing, which are essential activities to ensure continued funding [e.g., via the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1939] of wildlife conservation. … [and] addresses depredation challenges, wildlife disease, and invasive species [e.g., zebra and quagga mussels for Eastern Europe], as well as authorizes studies into federal expenditures and improved conservation under the Endangered Species Act . . . .(2)[see Senate Report citation below]
This is not the first major legislation approved by President Trump this year. Specifically, this new conservation law builds upon the Great American Outdoors Act of 2020, as previously reported.
In a bipartisan legislative achievement to promote better stewardship of American public lands, U.S. Senators and Representatives finalized their bill (H.R. 1957) called the “Great American Outdoors Act”—which was signed into law by President Trump (August 4, 2020)—intended to fund “up to $9.5 billion for national park maintenance over the next five years and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund with $900 million annually.”(3)[see JJSJ quote citation below]
A noted previously, the opportunity to connect the Genesis Mandate (of “filling the earth”) to recreational usages of America’s many and diverse public parks and lands is a matter of potential that all Christians should appreciate.
Bible-believing creationists are well aware of the recreational advantages and potential blessings that a doxologically oriented nature hike can facilitate. The great outdoors exhibits God’s handiwork everywhere you look.(3)[see JJSJ quote citation #3 below]
For the Bible-believing Christian who appreciates God’s role as our Creator, hiking nature trails with family, friends, or alone (and perhaps combined with birdwatching) is valuable, but not just for recreational uses. Appreciating natural exhibits (such as trees, wildflowers, rocks, deer, birds, squirrels, rabbits, streams, etc.) of God’s wondrously artistic creativity is itself a worthwhile reason for hiking. God made the birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees, the sunlight and the breeze. … Just hiking through nature can be meaningful enough to remind us that the beautiful scenery and the providentially cared-for biodiversity is all compliments of the greatest Artist of all, the Lord Jesus Christ.(4)[see JJSJ quote citation #4 below]
A nature walk is a wonderful family activity, especially when our young ones are in early to middle childhood. Children in the magical age group from about three-and-a-half to eight years old are curious about everything, ask endless questions, learn by playing, and are natural explorers. … These walks provide a perfect opportunity to see examples of the Lord Jesus’ super-intelligence. If you look carefully at the many characteristics of creatures you may come across, the walks can also highlight how the Lord wisely arrived at the best solution to many competing needs. For instance, the next time you find a feather on the ground, your young scientists can hold it as you guide them to recognize how lightweight, flexible, and strong it is. There is no better time to administer some mental preventive medicine to your child against the foolish evolutionary teachings they will inevitably be exposed to.(5)[See Guliuzza quote citation below]
The Great American Outdoors Act reinvigorated and enhanced funding for public land usages managed by the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education.(3)
Now, with the new America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, various federal conservation programs are improved and funded, such as:
Besides the [Chesapeake] Bay-specific initiatives [with funding of at least $90 million yearly, for 5 years], the [America’s Conservation Enhancement Act] reauthorizes a number of national programs that benefit the region, including the North American Wetlands Conservation program [by $60 million yearly, for 5 years], which helps promote wetland restoration, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation [banning EPA from regulating lead fishing tackle for 5 years], which oversees several grant programs that support Bay initiatives. It also creates a National Fish Habitat Partnership program to provide funding and technical resources to local public-private partnerships to conserve fish habitats.(1)[See Blankenship quote citation below]
The Fish & Wildlife Service is additionally tasked with protecting cervids (deer) and fish populations, with special attention to predation by invasive species:
- Establishing a task force within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to combat Chronic Wasting Disease;
- Congressionally authorizing the National Fish Habitat Partnership at $7.2 million annually for a period of 5 years . . . .(6)
The [America’s Conservation Enhancement] Act builds off of momentum generated earlier this Congress with the passage and enactment of the Dingell Act, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, and most recently the historic Great American Outdoors Act.(6)[see American Hunter quote citation below]
Viewed as an aggregate, that’s a lot of legislation packed into a short amount of congressional time!
But what are the potential opportunities for Christians, who recognize that God is to be glorified in all of His creation?
As opportunities become available in our “reopened” nation, look forward to (and undertake) hiking adventures, with family and friends, in the valuable legacy of public lands that our country has as part of its special heritage. And for those with eyes to see, look for God’s glory in display, every step along the trail.(3)[see JJSJ quote citation #3 below]
Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it!(7)[see Isaiah quote citation below]
Meanwhile, American Christians need to learn about the many opportunities for utilizing our natural heritage of scenic resources—including national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands—as venues for appreciating God as the great and glorious Creator He is.(1)
- Blankenship, Karl. 2020. Congress Extends Bay Program, Related Conservation Efforts: Bill also Continues Gateways Network, Creates Habitats Program. Chesapeake Bay Journal, 30(7):7 (October 2020).
- Johnson, James J. S. 2020. Great American Outdoors Act, Signed into Law by President. Creation Science Update (August 6, 2020), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/great-american-outdoors-act-signed-law-president/ .
- Senate Report 116-239. “America’s Conservation Enhancement Act” (116th Congress, 2nd session, 2019-2020), U.S. Gov’t Printing Office, 2020.
- Johnson, James J. S. 2020. Sweden’s Fun in the Sun, Nature Hiking. Creation Science Update (June 5, 2020), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/sweden-fun-in-the-sun-nature-hiking .
- Guliuzza, Randy J. 2018. Nature Walks for Young Scientists. Acts & Facts, 47(12): 17-19 (December 2018), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/nature-walks-for-young-scientists .
- American Hunter (NRA) Staff writers. 2020. America’s Conservation Enhancement Act Passes Congress. American Hunter (October 2, 2020), posted at https://www.americanhunter.org/articles/2020/10/2/america-s-conservation-enhancement-act-passes-congress/ .
- Isaiah 44:23a.