Climate: Biden, 30 by 30 and feeding the world
It’s not yet clear exactly how the word “conserve” will be applied to the 30% of lands and oceans that proponents are touting be done by 2030. However, President Biden has penned his support and put into motion the process of planning to meet this proposal. Biden signed a Jan. 27 executive order, creating the National Climate Task Force consisting of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and other department heads.
According to the order, the “Task Force shall facilitate the organization and deployment of a government-wide approach to combat the climate crisis. This Task Force shall facilitate planning and implementation of key federal actions to reduce climate pollution; increase resilience to the impacts of climate change; protect public health; conserve our lands, waters, oceans and biodiversity; deliver environmental justice; and spur well-paying union jobs and economic growth. As necessary and appropriate, members of the Task Force will engage on these matters with state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments; workers and communities; and leaders across the various sectors of our economy.”
The move was applauded by environmental groups, including The Pew Charitable Trust. The group’s senior vice president Tom Dillon said in a statement that the conservation commitment is highly unlikely without what he called broad and meaningful public engagement. He said, “Conservation decision-making needs to be inclusive of communities and people economically dependent on public lands; rural and urban citizens of all backgrounds, many of whom have disparate understandings of nature; hunters and anglers; and the diverse tribes, tribal governments, and Indigenous communities that each have specific relationships with land and sea. This means a lot of people need to be at the table, and they need to listen to each other.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association CEO Colin Woodall said in a statement that NCBA looks forward to working with the administration as they recognize the positive role agriculture plays in addressing climate concerns.
“U.S. cattle producers use advanced technologies, genetics and grazing management to make their herds the most sustainable in the world,” Woodall said. “We appreciate the outreach and opportunity to provide feedback, demonstrating U.S. cattle producers are the model for global, sustainable beef production.
A letter of support was released with the signatures of 450 elected officials, including 18 from Colorado, 13 from Nebraska, and one from Montana. The majority of signatures are those of elected officials in New York.
As confirmation hearings continue, notable appointments include Biden’s pick for secretary of the interior is New Mexico Democrat Rep. Deb Haaland, who has supported the New Green Deal, opposed hydraulic fracking, and has said she would prefer to stop oil and gas leasing on federal lands. Another appointment is that of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Booker, a vegan, said in a statement on his website that he is an advocate for agriculture and nutrition reform through his introduction of the Justice for Black Farmers Act, the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act, the Farm System Reform Act, the Climate Stewardship Act, the Local Food Assistance and Resilient Markets (FARM) Act, the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act, the Food and Nutrition in Schools Act, the Commodity Checkoff Program Improvement Act, and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) Improvement Act.
Balancing climate concerns, conservation and food insecurity is a challenge that will require trust between stakeholders. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, the director of the Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative at Colorado State University, said there’s little doubt that the ranching community plays a vital role in conservation. Defining conservation, she said, must be done broadly enough that the working landscapes may continue to meet the conservation goals and still feed the world.
“Whenever we think of sustainability, we have to consider the fact that we are feeding a growing population and these resources are critical to not only solve climate change problems, but also to meet food security goals. As scientists, we’re still trying to figure out how those things can exist synergistically and work to develop solutions in that space.”
Stackhouse-Lawson said she hopes Biden’s task force will prioritize those considerations.
Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, said the wave of concern felt within the agriculture community is certainly valid, especially if the definition of conservation is an overt generalization.
“It’s concerning if the need for conservation is not data-driven,” Fankhauser said. “It’s a good soundbite and it’s easy for them to sell because there are so many conservation groups and governments that rally around them. It has the potential to become a political tool, if not a hammer.”
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