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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!
National Public Radio (NPR) did a terrific story on the climate corps to provide jobs for young people that the administration proposed in the American Jobs Plan. The proposal provides for $10 billion to launch “The Civilian Climate Corps,” to address the threat of climate change by strengthening protections on public lands.
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer A new study from the University of Oxford published Wednesday has found that nature-based solutions (NbS) land management and ecosystem restoration will play a key role in limiting global temperature rise. If implemented properly, these practices could remove gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere in the next century. Currently, […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer On Thursday, the Biden administration announced detailed steps to protect 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. The report, titled “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” calls for a 10-year commitment to making conservation and restoration a priority. The plan details strategies to purify drinking water, increase green space, improve access to outdoor […]
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