30×30 Plan: Panelists discuss conservation policy for western states
The Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) hosted a panel of landowners and land managers to share their perspective on the Biden administration’s 30×30 Plan. While the policy has not been completed, WLA is advocating the final policy should respect property rights, improve conservation outcomes and benefit rural communities.
The panel included WLA Executive Director Lesli Allison, New Mexico Rancher Tuda Crews, California Rancher Jack Hanson, Department of Interior Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Kate Kelly, Idaho Rancher and Idaho Rangeland Conservation Partnership Coordinator Brenda Richards and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Martha Williams.
To start, Kelly provided a summary report of the plan, now called Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful.
“This is the first time a president has set a national conservation goal, so this certainly brings up the question of why this is important,” Kelly says, noting the goal has three main focuses.
The first is to address nature loss, second to address the climate crisis including historic drought and longer wildfire seasons and third to address disparities in access to the outdoors.
“The report recommends a 10-year, locally led America the Beautiful Campaign to conserve and restore the nation’s land and waters,” Kelly continues. “It recognizes the need for a balanced approach across all regions, so this is not just about public lands in the West, but thinking about the unique approaches we need in response to unique threats and the tools available for us to use.”
She shares the report focuses on conservation, rather than preservation or protection to provide benefits to people, as well as land and wildlife. Additionally, Kelly says the administration sought input from ranching and farming coalitions, private landowners, local officials and recreationalists and looking forward to additional engagement.
Locally led efforts
Panel members, particularly Hanson, looked to Kelly and Williams for clarification on what the plan considers to be “locally led” efforts. The pair turned to the panel to explain how local efforts could engage western landowners in helping the administration identify and support local processes and decision-making bodies. These local groups are already working towards effective conservation solutions in a way rural communities will participate in and benefit from.
“Within all the areas in which ranching and outdoor recreation occur, those lands – which I already consider conserved, by the way – house a lot of collaborative groups that would make excellent partners,” Hanson said. “There are a number of different opportunities existing at the local level, other than say, county governments, though I wouldn’t exclude them either.”
Richards shares communication between rural and urban populations throughout the nation, but especially in the West, will be key to the success of conservation initiatives.
“Those of us who have a passion for working on this kind of thing, and finding the opportunity in it, also have neighbors and work with stakeholders who might be scared of how the policy and efforts are defined, and whether it will be designations or restrictions.”
“I think the thing that has everybody worried is the question about federal lands,” says Allison. “This idea has been pushed out there quite a bit. That this is a federal land grab, or there could be uses of eminent domain, massive federal land expansions and taking of private properties.”
In response, Kelly shares, “There is no eminent domain that will be used. This is about recognizing and honoring private property, respecting private property and honoring the work private landowners are doing.”
She continues, “We are looking to use existing tools and resources to support the work that is happening to keep working lands working in their current state.”
In addition, landowners on the panel discussed the barriers and opportunities required for all parties involved to see success.
Crews notes, she sees opportunity with the 30×30 Plan to restore the reputation of ranchers and landowners in the nation, “I believe the stewards on the land are the ones to really step up to the plate and lead this initiative, because we are the ones with the knowledge of the ecosystem.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.