30×30 Plan: Public Lands Council executive director details conservation policy
“The 30×30 effort is the administration’s goal to conserve 30 percent of America’s lands and water by the year 2030,” shared Public Lands Council (PLC) Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. “When President Biden issued the executive order, it wasn’t clear what they meant by conservation and America’s lands and waters – whether this was private, state or federal land.”
Definition of conservation
Very early on, PLC was active in having conversations with the administration and requested a clear and concise definition of conservation, because “conservation is not preservation,” explained Glover.
“Conservation is not designation or acquisition,” she continued. “Conservation is the work ranchers do every day.”
She noted, the administration has transformed the 30×30 conservation policy into the effort now called, America the Beautiful.
“Essentially this 30×30 conservation goal has been wrapped into a much larger effort to bring outdoor green space to communities to create more resilience in natural resources, conserve lands and waters and make all of the things the administration wanted to do under one umbrella,” she shared.
At the beginning of 2022, the administration opened up a comment period on the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas (Atlas) and asked specific questions about what conservation should include, shared Glover.
PLC provided comment on the Atlas, which essentially answered the questions of, “What is conservation?” and “Who’s to count it and where should it happen?”
“In large part, PLC said the things ranchers are already doing – conservation – should be counted and included. In addition, conservation shouldn’t be directed or dictated by the federal government, because at the end of the day, no one knows how to take care of the landscapes better than the people who have been doing it for generations,” she said.
“We know there is a danger and we continue to impose designations – things such as additional wilderness and monument designations,” shared Glover. “PLC told the administration they must not infringe upon private property rights – this includes no eminent domain and no additional regulatory creeps – this is not the way this should be done.”
The work already being done by farmers and ranchers plays a big part in the success of this initiative, and this includes grazing, she noted.
“At the end of the day, if this administration wants to be successful in conserving 30 percent of these lands and waters, they are going to need farmers and ranchers to do the work – they are going to need farmers’ and ranchers’ help and leadership to continue,” said Glover.
Regulatory work done by PLC in Washington, D.C. plays a part in this 30×30 proposal, noted Glover.
“When the industry is talking about water conservation, the first thing environmental groups turn to is the Clean Water Act,” she added. “What we are working on right now is the definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.”
Another topic of discussion is the definition and concept of preservation. Conservation and preservation to many environmental activist groups are interchangeable, added Glover.
“This administration is working to rewrite WOTUS, changing Emotional Support Animals (ESA) rules, designating additional critical habitats for endangered species, etc.,” added Glover.
All of these changes would have happened whether or not we had the 30×30 goal. The administration would have continued to move forward with those regulatory changes regardless, noted Glover.
“The way this administration has crafted America the Beautiful, they almost have backed themselves into a corner to have to say grazing is conservation,” she shared. “This is really the first time we’ve seen this definition and the inclusion of grazing come from a federal administration.”
With the announcement of the 30×30 Plan and America the Beautiful initiative, several landowners are concerned about the Biden administration taking away private property rights and lands from landowners.
Glover shared, “We know there are some dangers ahead, but this doesn’t mean we miss the opportunity in front of us.”
This is very much an opportunity to make the administration live up to the promises they made, both in the campaign and also in the initial America the Beautiful report, she added.
The initial report identifies six priority areas for the administration’s early focus, investments and collaboration: create more parks and safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities; support tribal-led conservation and restoration priorities; expand collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors; increase access for outdoor recreation; incentivize and reward voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, farmers, ranchers and forest owners; and create jobs by investing in restoration and resilience projects and initiatives.
“For those who are concerned about private property rights, this administration does not have any additional tools they didn’t have before to infringe upon private property rights,” Glover explained. “This effort does not automatically give them any new tools to take private property rights away.”
The other thing to note is without private property conservation, this administration won’t be anywhere near their 30 percent goal, she added.
“If anything, this administration needs private landowners to continue to implement conservation practices,” Glover shared.
There are very specific eminent domain legal circumstances in which private property rights can be taken, and the proposed efforts applied in the 30×30 Plan and America the Beautiful does not apply here, she added.
In order for the president to issue eminent domain of a property, the property taken must be a private property; there must be a genuine necessity to take the property; must be for public use; there must be payment of compensation; and the taking must comply with due process of the law.
“As we talk about private property rights, we have strong policy and laws protecting private property rights,” Glover added. “Some of these extreme groups are going to try to continue to dictate what a landowner should or should not do, but at the end of the day, they don’t have the law to back them.”
on public lands
“When we talk about public lands, there are those competing interests, this is why commenting on these regulatory proposals and being involved is so important,” she noted.
It has been noted there has been some push for more recreational use on public lands, especially during COVID-19.
“The challenge is obviously infrastructure, travel management plans and general land use planning have not kept pace with the radical increase of recreation in these landscapes,” she noted. “It’s going to continue to be not only a management challenge, but an ecological challenge as well.”
“Generally, we carry the message, grazing is conservation,” concluded Glover. “Grazing on federal land is already subject to land health standards and a number of monitoring assessments, and this is something ranchers have been doing for decades.”
“As we continue to have these conversations on 30×30, it’s not going to be about additional practices needing to be added, it’s going to be about recognizing the good work already being done,” concluded Glover. “This administration has said they are going to move forward with some grazing regulation changes we saw formulated during the Trump administration, but PLC will be ready when it does.”
To submit public comment on the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas by March 7 at 11:59 p.m., visit federalregister.gov/documents/2022/01/04/2021-28548/
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.