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Initial conservation report stresses local goals, voluntary actions

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Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has been one of the leading advocates of the “30 by 30” conservation concept. (AP Photo)

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Biden ‘30 by 30’ goal still opposed by many

Some opponents of a Biden Administration plan to conserve at least 30% of the nation’s water and land by 2030 call the idea a “land grab,” but the first report from federal officials indicates that initiatives should be community-led and voluntary and that private land ownership should be respected.

The report, “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” was released Thursday to the National Climate Task Force.

It is a preliminary response to an executive order issued Jan. 27 by the Biden Administration forming the task force and outlining the “30 by 30 plan” as one of many initiatives intended to alleviate the effects of climate change.

The Chaves County Land Council will be discussing the “30 x 30” plan in the future, said county Planning and Zoning Director Louis Jaramillo.

County Manager Bill Williams and County Commissioner Jeff Bilberry also planned to attend a presentation on the topic on Saturday evening.

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Land Council members briefly talked about the topic during a March 11 meeting. They had been presented with information and a draft resolution opposing the concept that had been developed by American Stewards for Liberty, a property rights educational nonprofit based in Georgetown, Texas.

That group has characterized the concept as a “land grab” and an “unconstitutional shift” from private land ownership to state control.

The report was produced by representatives with the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce and its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Council on Environmental Quality, part of the Office of the President.

The federal government officials met with many groups and people to develop the initial recommendations. Those included governors and county, state and federal elected officials; tribal leaders; environmentalists; outdoor recreation businesses; fishing industry members, farmers and ranchers; fish and wildlife officials; and hunting and fishing sports organizations.

The preliminary report emphasizes that conservation involving private land would have to be voluntary and that conservation efforts should be determined by local goals.

“The federal government should do all it can to help local communities achieve their own conservation priorities and vision,” the report states. “Locally and regionally designed approaches can play a key role in conserving resources and be tailored to meet the priorities and needs of local communities and the nation.”

It adds that conservation should be nationwide, and not just focused on one part of the country.

The report recommends six action steps during the early part of the effort: creating more parks and open space for communities lacking such areas; providing federal funding and support for tribal conservation and restoration projects; expanding conservation of fish and wildlife habitats; increasing access for outdoor recreation; providing incentives for voluntary conservation efforts of privately owned working lands such as farms, ranches and forest properties; and supporting the Civilian Climate Corps to pay people to work on conservation and restoration projects.

The report also calls for the development of an “atlas” that will quantify existing conserved and protected lands and water and allow for regular updates as more conservation or restoration occurs. In addition, the group has recommended the production of an annual report, with the first one due by the end of 2021.

Federal officials acknowledged that just how much land and water is conserved now is not known and that developing definitions of conservation goals will have to be part of their efforts. Proposed 2020 federal legislation supported by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, one of the first proponents of the 30×30 concept, estimated that 12% of U.S. lands and 26% of waters are already protected.

Prior to the issuance of the report, the concept had been opposed by 15 governors and the Garfield County Board of Commissioners, which passed a resolution against it. U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell of the 2nd Congressional District of New Mexico was among more than 60 congressional leaders expressing concerns about the plan and asking for more transparency and more opportunities for participation by those who have concerns.

Supporters of the concept include numerous environmental groups, the Outdoor Recreation Industry Association, some tribal groups and the U.S. Climate Alliance, which consists of 22 governors, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.