Administration seeks to promote collaboration with private landowners
The Biden administration plans to broadly define conservation and encourage private landowners to adopt sustainable practices to meet a goal of protecting 30 percent of the land and water in the U.S. by 2030, according to a multi-agency report published Thursday.
The recommendations are short of the most aggressive federal directives congressional Republicans feared would be central to reaching the administration’s “30 by 30” goal, but may still spark objections in a Congress deeply split on how the government should manage its public lands and deal with private landowners, particularly in the West.
Some Republicans already had accused the administration of engineering a “land grab” before seeing the details of the highly anticipated plan.
The report, compiled by the departments of Interior and Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was required under an ambitious executive order President Joe Biden signed a week after taking office that committed the administration to conserving 30% of U.S. acreage by 2030.
The administration in its plan outlines a 10-year conservation program that relies mostly on existing authorities and avoids discussion of the most active steps the federal government could take short of congressional action, which could include rules, executive orders or agency guidance.
“Though President Biden’s national conservation goal is ambitious, it can be achieved using the wide array of existing tools and strategies that Tribal Nations, territories, State and local governments, private landowners, non-profit organizations, fishing communities, Congress, and Federal agencies have already developed and deployed effectively,” the report says.
The report does not say what percent of U.S. land and water the administration would currently count toward its goal. It proposes establishing an American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas that would tally conservation areas.
That count would likely include not only pristine wilderness areas already managed by the National Park Service, but also a wide array of protected areas such as private lands that benefit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program, which provides incentives to farmers and ranchers to adjust their land management to mitigate climate change.
The report outlines eight principles that should be part of a conservation program, including taking “a collaborative and inclusive approach,” letting local communities make decisions and honoring private property rights.
The government should also try and spread the benefits of conservation—providing recreation areas and clean drinking water, for example—and honor tribal sovereignty, the report says. Read more