GOP lawmakers offer an alternative to 30×30 plan
Report called a ‘commonsense approach’
As an alternative to President Joe Biden’s 30×30 plan, the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses unveiled a report supporting a holistic approach for locally led conservation, active land and water management, and multiple use.
In a joint statement, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) called the recommendations in the Western Conservation Principles report “real conservation outcomes for our lands and waters.” They further stated the report contrasts with the Biden administration’s “preservationist” approach of “locking up” public lands to keep them untouched.
The report states while the Biden administration has since renamed the 30×30 plan to the America the Beautiful initiative, the issue remains ambiguous as to what is defined as “conservation status,” and what percentage of lands and waters meets the 30 percent status. “These factors combined make the America the Beautiful initiative ring hollow,” the report states.
In May, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce released the report, titled “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” which laid out a broad vision, outlining the goal of conserving 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030.
“It’s this lack of information surrounding the 30×30 initiative that’s left many Westerners very concerned that this was just a way to lock up more land,” Daines said in a video announcement.
The 10-year approach posed in the Caucus report focuses on “issues plaguing our lands and waters like invasive species; overgrown, diseased, and infested forests; and post-wildfire restoration.”
To achieve these goals, the report proposes:
• Streamlining the National Environmental Policy Act to increase active forest management.
• Controlling, preventing and eradicating harmful invasive species using recommendations from the Invasive Species Advisory Committee, established in 2016.
• Reducing the overpopulation of wild horses and burros.
• Encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency to work with stakeholders to clean up the 1,327 Superfund sites.
• Leveraging the funds available in the Great American Outdoors Act to support long-term public land infrastructure and encourage visitation to our larger and smaller national parks.
• Restoring abandoned mines and orphaned wells by removing administrative, regulatory and liability burdens that can impede critical conservation-restoration work.
• Improving the “checkerboard” land access that mixes federal and private land through better mapping of easements.
• Calling on the Biden administration to abide by the definition of conservation under the Endangered Species Act, utilizing transparent and science-based processes in listings and critical habitat determinations.
• Offering title transfers to address the rehabilitation and maintenance of federal water infrastructure.
• Eliminating the “D.C. knows best” mentality and pursuing policies that encourage healthy landscapes with “those whose livelihoods depend on them.”
The report calls on a collaborative approach to “maximize the conservation benefits
provided by activities like grazing, hunting, logging and mineral development” through the expertise of local partnerships and existing shared stewardship authorities.
Agricultural, mining and logging organizations supported the report, while some environmental groups gave lukewarm support. Industry groups called the report a “commonsense approach” to conservation and working landscapes.
“The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) strongly supports the Western Conservation Principles outlined by the Senate and Western Caucuses,” said Chase Adams, ASI senior policy and information director, in a statement. “The commonsense recommendations provide a needed and beneficial framework for the president’s 30×30 initiative and recognize the role of all stakeholders in preserving our nation’s public lands through multiple use.”