30×30 initiative raises concerns: Western Caucus Foundation proposes an alternative plan
The Western Caucus Foundation (WCF) hosted a digital seminar March 31 to discuss the potential impacts of the Biden administration’s proposed 30×30 initiative and the WCF’s Western Conservation Principles, an alternative plan to the 30×30 initiative.
The 30×30 initiative remains undefined, leaving producers and landowners concerned. Western Conservation Principles offers a way to clarify the difference between conservation and preservation, which the Biden administration hasn’t thoroughly outlined.
WCF Chairman Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) expresses his concerns regarding the 30×30 initiative, saying, “It’s been over one year since President Biden signed this executive order kickstarting this initiative, but unfortunately, we don’t know any more now than we did then.”
“The administration has called to place 30 percent of lands and waters in an undefined conservation status by 2030 but will not answer a few really important questions,” he continues. “How will they define conservation? How many acres are already conserved? How are they planning to carry this out?”
Daines mentions Westerners, including himself, aren’t against conservation. They are, however, against an initiative which could potentially overstep boundaries and negatively impact Western communities.
“I support conservation, but the lack of information and the subjective, ambiguous terms the administration is relying on leaves Westerners to fear the worst, as we should,” he says. “The administration has done nothing to reassure the public their 30×30 initiative isn’t just a guide to restrict use or access on public lands. The administration has provided no certainty private property rights will be respected in this process.”
Western Conservation Principles
Daines is partnering with WCF Chairman Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) in proposing the WCF alternative plan to the 30×30 initiative, called the Western Conservation Principles. This proposed document explains the WCF’s conservation agenda, including multiple use and development being compatible with conservation, he says.
“The Western Conservation Principles call on the Biden administration to refocus efforts on the vast management needs on our public lands, not private lands,” Daines says. “We urge the administration to pursue healthier landscapes, not ambiguous land status which doesn’t necessarily reflect conservation happening on our landscapes.”
“We are calling for increased forest management, stewardship, more flexibilities and certainties for public lands grazing and responsible energy development,” he continues.
Newhouse says the Biden administration’s approach to conservation remains misguided and needs the Western Conservation Principles to set it on the right path.
“The Biden administration continues to increase spending to tackle climate change, but instead of spending money on this issue, they should be listening to those of us who are on the ground throughout the Western U.S. and across the country, those people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy ecosystem,” he says. “Rural communities understand, in order to protect our natural resources, we have to manage them. Conservation and working lands go hand in hand.”
Newhouse refers to the Western Conservation Principles as a blueprint for the definition of what “true, real conservation” looks like.
These proposed principles define conservation by “fulfilling the federal government’s multi-use mandate, ensuring safe and responsible energy development on public lands, supporting resilient federal forests and grasslands through active management and efficiently protecting endangered and threatened species. These principles are founded on the values and practices already in use throughout rural America,” he says. “Our advocacy on behalf of our communities is more important now than ever before.”
National Association of Counties (NACO) Legislative Director for Public Lands Jonathan Shuffield notes he has received many concerns from folks residing in Western counties.
“Western counties, some of which are over 90 percent federally owned, are concerned the 30×30 initiative could be used as a means to require more federally owned land, restrict access to the public or greatly increase resource and water ownership,” he says.
Shuffield says NACO has met with the Biden administration multiple times to discuss 30×30, but NACO hasn’t been able to find answers to some of their biggest questions.
“I think for our members, the biggest question is: What is the definition of conservation the administration’s aiming for? We have asked this question at every meeting and in every piece of written correspondence with the Biden administration on this subject,” he notes. “We haven’t received a final answer, but I can say the administration officials continue to insist the definition must be flexible.”
He notes NACO supports the Western Conservation Principles and they feel the Biden administration should use the WCF’s principles as a tool to better define conservation moving forward.
“The Western Conservation Principles calls on the Biden administration to focus on sound, scientific management of our public lands, incorporating all levels of government and impacted stakeholder’s resource management decisions,” Shuffield says. “The Western Conservation Principles document would push the 30×30 initiative towards beneficial outcomes and provable results – not just nice talking points.”
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.