Biden administration releases report to launch 30×30 initiative
The Biden-Harris administration, May 6, 2021, released a report to launch its “America the Beautiful” initiative to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and water by 2030, and promised that lands in agricultural production would be part of the effort.
White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimundo and Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory all participated in a joint telephone news conference announcing the launch of the initiative.
McCarthy said the initiative would last for 10 years and would begin with the establishment of an interagency working group, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The working group will develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, “a tool that will better reflect the voluntary contributions of farmers, ranchers, forest owners and private landowners; the contributions of fishery management councils; and other existing conservation designations on lands and waters across federal, state, local, Tribal, and private lands and waters across the nation,” the administration said.
The Agriculture Department has announced plans to encourage farmers and landowners to put 4 million more acres into the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to idle land for conservation and wildlife habitat purposes.
Farm leaders have expressed concerns that the Biden administration wants to take more land out of production, but Vilsack said that improved conservation on working farm lands and better forest management will be key components of the effort.
Vilsack said that the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service will need more resources to accomplish these goals.
The report identifies six priority areas for the administration’s early focus, investments, and collaboration:
▪ Creating more parks and safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities.
▪ Supporting tribally led conservation and restoration priorities.
▪ Expanding collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors.
▪ Increasing access for outdoor recreation.
▪ Incentivizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, ranchers, farmers, and forest owners.
▪ Creating jobs by investing in restoration and resilience projects and initiatives, including the Civilian Climate Corps.
The report recommends additional dialogue with key partners, including states and Tribes, to inform early collaborative conservation efforts and the development of the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas.
“This report is only the starting point on the path to fulfilling the conservation vision that President Biden has outlined,” says the report.
“Where this path leads over the next decade will be determined not by our agencies, but by the ideas and leadership of local communities. It is our job to listen, learn, and provide support along the way to help strengthen economies and pass on healthy lands, waters, and wildlife to the generations to come.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, the chair of the House Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee and a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Sucommittee, said, “The Biden administration’s aptly named ‘America the Beautiful’ initiative prioritizes local stakeholder input to protect and restore our irreplaceable natural resources.”
“This bottom up, voluntary approach to conserving 30% of our lands and waters by 2030 will ensure that the people who love and use these spaces every day will be heard by the White House.
“In Maine, that means our tribal communities, fishermen, farmers, loggers, and private landowners will have a seat at the table as the nation undergoes one of the most meaningful conservation efforts of our lifetimes. The magnitude of this initiative is historic,” Pingree said.
“Our oceans, forests, and soil naturally trap the greenhouse gases that are rapidly warming our planet, which makes conservation of these natural resources essential to mitigating the climate crisis,” she continued.
“As chair of the House Appropriations Interior and Environment subcommittee, I support the Biden administration’s comprehensive plan to improve environmental stewardship, ensure equitable access to the outdoors, and promote natural solutions to fight the climate crisis.”
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said, “This report is a strong start and lays out a vision that aligns with the kind of conservation efforts we know to be successful in Colorado — efforts that take a locally-led, collaborative, and inclusive approach and bring into the fold the private landowners, farmers, and ranchers who are already stewards of our natural resources.”
“I’m glad to see the administration’s commitment to empowering local communities to drive the process,” Bennet continued.
“There’s a long road ahead to ensure that this is done right, and I expect the Biden Administration to continue to listen to Coloradans and individuals across the West as they work toward this goal. The ‘America the Beautiful’ initiative is an opportunity to not only build climate resilience, but also to create jobs and grow economies across the West.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC) praised the inclusion of agricultural producers’ recommendations in the Biden administration’s conservation goals report.
“We are pleased to see USDA and DOI incorporate many of the recommendations of America’s farmers and ranchers into this conservation plan,” said Kaitlynn Glover, speaking for both NCBA and PLC.
“This is a productive starting point that builds on the input of a diverse array of stakeholders — and moving forward, our focus will be on holding the administration and federal agencies to it,” Glover said.
“We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the administration to make sure that the agencies implementing 30×30 leverage the expertise of our producers and reward them for their good work on the ground.”
Glover noted that one of the report’s six initial recommendations for the initiative focuses specifically on agricultural producers.
“NCBA and PLC have been in constant and proactive communication with the administration to make sure the White House understands the vital role ag producers play in safeguarding our natural landscapes,” she said.
The groups noted that the report includes recommendations to:
▪ “Incentivize voluntary conservation efforts and provide new sources of income for American farmers, ranchers, and foresters.
▪ “Improve the effectiveness of relevant USDA conservation programs through the 2023 farm bill.
▪ “Support the voluntary conservation efforts of private landowners.
▪ “Leverage public-private partnerships and voluntary measures to improve targeted populations of wildlife.
▪ “Create jobs in rural America that support science-driven stewardship and conservation efforts.”
National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said, “When the administration first announced its plans to conserve 30% of the nation’s land, however, we had a lot of questions about what that might mean for agriculture.“
”After sharing those concerns with the administration, we are heartened that our feedback was taken seriously and incorporated into the final principles.
“Today’s report understands the valuable work that family farmers are already doing to improve soil, water, and air quality and commits to advancing that work in the future. We are glad to have clarity on the matter and look forward to continued collaboration with the administration to ensure these principles are followed.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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