A land swap bill that would swap 86,000 acres of state lands inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for federal land on the edge of the Superior National Forest has passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
The House approved the bill on Wednesday, September 12, in a 225-189 vote that fell primarily along party lines. According to the Pioneer Press, several amendments were voted down including one that would have required NEPA reviews (National Environmental Policy Act). Additional amendments would have required a federal appraisal, a specific map of the land trade before it was approved, and forbidden the Forest Service from trading land “if it would result in the loss of forest for fishes, hunting and other recreational opportunities.”
The latter was sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minneapolis. He and Betty McCollum, D-St. Paul, led much of the effort against the bill. If it is passed by the Senate and signed into law, proponents argue that the unamended bill will free up school trust lands so that income from things like mining will benefit the school trust financially. But according to the Star Tribune, the Senate isn’t likely to consider the bill for months.
For background on the land swap bill, check out this Wilderness News Post, which includes links to editorials on the issue.