GOP offers alternative to Biden’s 30×30 conservation plan

By Jennifer Whitlock 

President Joe Biden’s 30×30 initiative, also called the America the Beautiful initiative, aims to place 30% of the nation’s land and waters in conservation status by 2030. But members of Congress offered an alternative they say is more realistic and less disruptive to agriculture.

In a plan released by the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses, the Republicans allege Biden’s plan is too ambiguous and that the administration doesn’t even yet know what percentage of land and waters are already meeting conservation status.

The group of 13 senators, including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, and 27 representatives said their plan is a “healthier alternative” that focuses on increasing the percentage of conservation status of public lands and waters by using outcome-based conservation practices.

“We believe the best way to do this is not simply through more funding, but through thoughtful, deliberate improvements to existing programs, systems and processes, removing regulatory burdens blocking responsible management and leveraging the expertise, resources and collaboration of private and public partners,” they wrote.

Their 10-year initiative to conserve and restore public lands prioritizes:

forest health

eradicating invasive species

better managing the growing wild horse and burro population

the restoration of more Superfund sites

working with all levels of government on endangered species conservation

cleanup and restoration of abandoned mines and orphan wells

protecting water infrastructure 

increasing tourism for national parks to boost funding for maintaining and enhancing those properties

Preserving private property rights is imperative to meeting these objectives, the plan noted. Public lands also benefit from public-private conservation partnerships through grazing, hunting, logging and mineral development.

“We need an all-hands-on-deck, collaborative approach if we are to reach our conservation ambitions,” the lawmakers said. “Western land-users are the original conservationists. No one knows better the importance of stewarding our resources and achieving sustainable yield and healthy landscapes than those whose livelihoods depends on them.”

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats recognized increased funding of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs and voluntary conservation efforts from farmers and ranchers are needed to achieve Biden’s 30×30 plan. And they can do it all while respecting private property owners.

“President Biden has recognized and honored the leadership role that farmers, ranchers, forest owners and fishers already play in the conservation of the nation’s lands, waters and wildlife and has made clear that his administration will support voluntary stewardship efforts that are already underway across the country’s lands and waters,” a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) stated.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who supports the 30×30 initiative, told reporters at a press conference he was working to ensure enough technical assistance was available through USDA to help farmers and ranchers with more conservation planning.

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