Biden’s 30×30 initiative | Editorials
The big question about the Biden administration’s proposal to preserve 30% of the country’s land and water by 2030 is what would “count” as conserved.
A common assumption – as evidenced by four Colorado County Commissions passing resolutions opposing the proposal, even before its details were known – is that meeting the 30% target would require more designations of nature. wild.
But the administration’s recently released report, “Conserving and Restoring Beautiful America 2021,” tries to dispel notions of “land grabbing” understatement.
Given the amount of misinformation swirling around the 30×30 goal, we hope the report allays some of the fears that led to anti-30×30 resolutions. Without knowing the details, we admit that Biden’s proposal risked being misinterpreted as an uber-liberal initiative of the Green New Deal.
It is a difficult time for rural communities in western Colorado. The commotion is strong due to the reintroduction of wolves, proclamations by governors regarding meat consumption and a proposed voting measure that could affect the way cattle are raised in the state. Western Coloradans don’t need more and Biden’s proposal has raised suspicion.
But the report is flexible enough and not too prescriptive. It deals with recommendations, not specific policies or results. The report sets out eight basic principles. Among them is a commitment to collaboration, support for voluntary and locally-led conservation efforts, and respect for tribal sovereignty and private property rights. The emphasis on stakeholder engagement should allay fears of a top-down approach aimed at harming local communities.
The report acknowledges that “there is no single metric – including a percentage goal – that could fully measure progress” toward achieving the 30×30 goals. It recommends that the federal government create an American Atlas of Conservation and Stewardship that collects basic information on the amount and types of land and water managed for conservation and restoration.
It also recommends an annual report on collaborations to conserve land and water. The first report, due at the end of 2021, is expected to provide an assessment of changes in land cover, including the loss of free space; and a review of the state of fish and wildlife habitats and populations.
All of this makes sense and opens up the land management toolbox to a variety of approaches. Communities can identify certain values - ecological, economic or social – and protect them through a planning process. It is far from the case for the federal government to forcibly designate wilderness areas.
Our Mesa County Commissioners did not blindly pass the same anti-30×30 resolution as some of the other Western Slope counties and are to be commended for waiting for Thursday’s report. If they finally do vote in opposition, it will be at least from an enlightened point of view.
While there are certainly proposals to create new wilderness areas (or convert existing study areas to wilderness areas) in Western communities, the report makes it clear that this is not about ‘a wilderness initiative.
It’s more about identifying pathways to things that most Americans consider important anyway – conservation, outdoor recreation, equitable access to the outdoors and biodiversity. All have assumed greater importance in a context of climatic uncertainty.