Three agencies in President Joe Biden’s administration unveiled an environmental agenda on Thursday that promises to improve protection of US lands and waters over the next decade.
The 22-page “America the Beautiful” report from the Commerce, Interior and Agriculture departments gives a broad overview of how the administration intends to reach its goals. The plan is also part of the president’s strategy in fighting climate change.
The paper, which was sent to the National Climate Task Force, identifies values that will direct the nationwide initiative, including a dedication to promoting “the voluntary conservation efforts of farmers, ranchers, and fishers” while respecting tribal autonomy and private property rights.
According to the study, voluntary conservation activities by farmers and ranchers would be critical to achieving Biden’s target of conserving 30% of US lands and waters by 2030.
On his first days in office in January, Biden signed an executive order creating the “30 by 30,” target of 30 percent by 2030.
The study does not specify how conservation can be calculated in relation to the 2030 target. It also does not specify which territories are to be covered. It does recognise broad focus areas, such as the expansion of parks and the provision of “safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities.”
Other goals include increasing protection of fish and wildlife populations and corridors, as well as generating employment through programmes such as the Civilian Climate Corps. The organisation will collaborate on climate-related federal programmes as part of the progressive Green New Deal.
The report also says that “maintaining ranching in the West — on both public lands and private lands — is essential to maintaining the health of wildlife, the prosperity of local economies, and an important and proud way of life.”
“Efforts to conserve and restore America’s lands and waters must respect the rights of private property owners. Such efforts must also build trust among all communities and stakeholders, including by recognizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of private landowners and the science-based approaches of fishery managers.”
According to US Geological Survey results, approximately 12% of US lands are covered, as are approximately 11% of freshwater habitats.
In response to issues raised by agricultural, hunting, and fishing organisations, the proposal stresses that private property interests will be respected and that stewardship activities by private landowners and fishers will be voluntary.
The American Farm Bureau Federation wrote to Biden in April, requesting that public lands used for grazing be designated as “conserved” under the plan’s description.
“Any discussion about conservation must begin with the recognition that farmers and ranchers are already leaders in this space and have been for decades,” the letter said, according to The Washington Post.
Some Republicans in Congress have filed resolutions opposing the plan.