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Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Photo: U.S. Bureau of Land Management
By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer
In an open letter, 450 elected officials from all around the U.S. support President Biden’s Executive Order action this week to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The officials hope that the president will lead a swift and aggressive campaign to combat global warming and the extinction crisis through conserving land and ocean spaces for the benefit of nature. Biden has also pledged to reverse a number of the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks, many of which reduced protections for key public lands and infringed on Indigenous sovereignty.
Why This Matters: As this letter makes clear, parks and access to nature are important to Americans across the country – in red and blue states. During his time in office, Trump rolled back protections for countless public lands, including areas like Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase Monuments in Utah, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The rollbacks, meant to clear the way for development, largely failed to attract buyers in Alaska, but fossil fuel companies bought up enough land in the Western U.S. at the end of the Trump administration to continue oil drilling for years.
Experts are particularly concerned about the risk that this development, and the vulnerability of under-protected lands, poses to wildlife. The world is currently facing an extinction crisis, with over one million species endangered globally.
Some experts estimate that one-third of all species could be extinct by 2070.
Experts also believe that in addition to sequestering carbon and protecting wildlife, protecting 30% of lands and waters could even prevent future novel diseases like COVID-19.
President Biden promised during his campaign to establish the 30% by 2030 target. The target aligns with the U.N.’s climate goals, which is why it was included in the climate Executive Order he signed this week. Biden’s Interior department issued a moratorium on drilling on public lands in what advocates hope is just the first step in fulfilling a campaign promise to ban all such drilling. In addition to these promises, the Biden administration has promised to prioritize communication and transparency with Indigenous communities with stakes in public lands, and streamline the process of putting public lands into trust on behalf of tribes.
Rep Deb Haaland (D – N.M.), Biden’s nominee to lead the Interior Department only affirms advocates’ hopes for a 30×30 commitment. Just last year, Haaland led a coalition introducing a resolution to set 30×30 as a national goal. “Our communities deserve fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a livable planet, but right now inaction on climate change is putting everything at risk, particularly in communities of color,” Haaland said. She is expected to lead the reversal of Trump’s Utah Monument rollbacks which will likely be the first step in a larger reversal campaign.
Advocates are not only thrilled with Biden’s promises, but also with the clear support of so many elected officials. Alex Taurel, the conservation program director at the League of Conservation Voters told HuffPost, “Biden ran and won on the most ambitious climate and nature conservation agenda in history, including committing to 30 by 30, and so we’re seeing this letter as further proof that Biden’s agenda reflects the will of the people of the country, their elected representatives, and what they want to see to preserve nature for future generations.”
To Go Deeper: Read the letter here. You could even urge your state lawmakers to sign it!
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Heirs’ property is a type of land ownership whereby property is passed down without a will, and it’s one of the main reasons Black families in the US are losing their land. But the Mobile Basin Heirs’ Property Support Initiative announced yesterday could help families in Mississippi’s Mobile Bay […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The White House announced Friday that President Biden will use his executive authority to restore protections for three national monuments drastically reduced during the Trump Administration. He will reestablish and increase the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, both of which are in Utah. The orders […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The Dana Biosphere Reserve is Jordan’s largest and most diverse protected area, spanning dunes and towering mountains and home to half of the country’s bird species. Now, the Jordanian government plans to mine the reserve for copper, Al Jazeera reports. The reserve is currently under consideration for status as […]
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