Biden Administration Debuts Decade of Conservation

WASHINGTON, DC, May 7, 2021 (ENS) – The Biden administration has proposed a nationwide goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 – the nation’s first conservation goal. The proposal for a voluntary, locally-led “America the Beautiful Initiative” is contained in a new report calling for a decade-long effort to support conservation and restoration across public, private, and Tribal lands and waters.

Submitted to the National Climate Task Force, the report was developed by the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The report outlines eight principles that the Biden administration believes should guide the nationwide effort, including a pursuit of collaborative approaches; a commitment to supporting the voluntary conservation efforts of farmers, ranchers, and fishers; and the honoring of Tribal sovereignty and private property rights.

“The President’s challenge is a call to action to support locally led conservation and restoration efforts of all kinds and all over America, wherever communities wish to safeguard the lands and waters they know and love,” write Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory in the report. “Doing so will not only protect our lands and waters but also boost our economy and support jobs nationwide.”

This move to conserve has three main purposes, the authors explain – to create jobs and strengthen the foundation of the U.S. economy; to tackle the climate and nature crises; and to address inequitable access to the outdoors.

Based on feedback gathered in the Biden administration’s first 100 days, the report identifies six priority areas for the administration’s early focus, investments, and collaboration:

1 – Creating more parks and safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities
2 – Supporting Tribally led conservation and restoration priorities
3 – Expanding collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors
4 – Increasing access for outdoor recreation
5 – Incentivizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, ranchers, farmers, and forest owners
6 – Creating jobs by investing in restoration and resilience projects and initiatives, including the Civilian Climate Corps. This proposed Corp would be formed to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.

The Biden administration is currently taking steps to support outdoor recreation and equitable access to the outdoors.

In late April, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture expanded the Conservation Reserve Program by offering new incentives, higher rental rates, and more focused attention on sensitive lands with a goal of enrolling four million acres and capturing 3.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in this voluntary conservation program.

This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed an expansion of hunting and sport fishing opportunities for game species across 2.1 million acres at 90 national wildlife refuges and on the lands of one national fish hatchery. 

The Service will seek comments from the public on the proposed rule for 60 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register on May 4, 2021. The notice will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-NWRS-2021-0027, and will include details on how to submit your comments.

The Service intends to finalize the proposed changes in time for the upcoming 2021-2022 hunting seasons. A complete list of all refuges and hatcheries in the proposal is available in the proposed rule. View an online list. https://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2021/2021-2022-Station-Specific-Hunting-and-Fishing-Proposed-Rule-Narratives.pdf

In the coming days, the National Park Service will announce $150 million in funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program, which helps build parks in underserved communities.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admiinistration, NOAA, is working in partnership with the state of Connecticut to create a living classroom for education, research, and recreation by designating a National Estuarine Research Reserve in Long Island Sound. The final designation paperwork is expected by January 2022, when it will become the 30th estuary reserve in the national system.

Endangered ‘I’iwi in Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii. The ‘i‘iwi’s long, down curved, orange bill is specialized for sipping nectar from tubular flowers. August 30, 2017 (Photo by Alan Schmierer, USFWS)

To help measure and track progress toward the nation’s first conservation goal, the report calls for the establishment of an interagency working group to develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas.

The report describes that Atlas as “a tool that will better reflect the voluntary contributions of farmers, ranchers, forest owners and private landowners; the contributions of fishery management councils; and other existing conservation designations on lands and waters across federal, state, local, Tribal, and private lands and waters across the nation.”

The American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas working group will be led by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and NOAA, in partnership with other land and ocean management agencies.

In line with President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, signed on January 27, the agencies developed their recommendations for this proposal after hearing from governors and their staffs, Members of Congress and their staffs, Tribal leaders, county officials, state elected officials, state fish and wildlife agencies, leaders on equity and justice in conservation policy, environmental advocacy organizations, hunting and fishing organizations, regional fisheries management councils, farming and ranching organizations, trade associations, forestry representatives, outdoor recreation businesses and users, the seafood industry, among others. 

The report recommends additional dialogue with key partners, including states and Tribes, to inform early collaborative conservation efforts and the development of the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas.

“This report is only the starting point on the path to fulfilling the conservation vision that President Biden has outlined,” the report’s authors write. “Where this path leads over the next decade will be determined not by our agencies, but by the ideas and leadership of local communities. It is our job to listen, learn, and provide support along the way to help strengthen economies and pass on healthy lands, waters, and wildlife to the generations to come.”

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