Counties and Associations Invited to Join Comments
In January, the Department of the Interior issued a notice seeking comments to inform interagency efforts to develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas (the “Atlas”). The purpose of the Atlas is to support the implementation of President Biden’s directive in Executive Order 14008, to “conserve at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030,” known as the 30×30 program.
The comments were prepared by Norman D. James, an attorney with the Fennemore law firm, for American Stewards of Liberty (American Stewards). They provide compelling arguments that a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement must be prepared to evaluate the potential impacts of the 30×30 program, and to disclose those impacts to the public, before the Administration takes further action:
“… the Atlas and the underlying program it supports, the 30 x 30 Initiative, are subject to [National Environmental Policy Act, (NEPA)] NEPA review. Once developed, the Atlas will be used to determine which stewardship and conservation actions satisfy the requirements of the 30 x 30 Initiative and which public, private, and Tribal lands and waters will be the focus of this sweeping federal land and resource management program. See 87 Fed. Reg. at 236 (discussing the purpose and uses of the Atlas). Because the Atlas, and the larger 30 x 30 Initiative it supports, will alter the management of at least 30 percent of lands and waters across the United States, their effects must be analyzed and disclosed pursuant to NEPA.” (American Stewards of Liberty comments, page 2)
The Administration is actively implementing the goal through existing programs without providing the public with a basic definition of “conservation” or disclosing any substantive details that provide necessary information to the public and decision-makers. Instead, American’s are being asked to trust the Biden Administration and blindly support the program’s objectives.
The preparation of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA would require the Administration to disclose these details and properly obtain the input of state and local governments, as well as stakeholders. Preparing the required NEPA study would be the first step in fulfilling their claim that the program is to be locally-driven by allowing the public to understand and comment on the program and its likely impacts.
“We recognize that going through the NEPA process requires careful consideration and examination of all potential impacts on the human and natural environment, and that this analysis could delay implementation of the program,” commented Margaret Byfield, Executive Director of American Stewards. “The environmental community has been requiring NEPA compliance of the industries that produce our food, fiber, energy and minerals for programs and projects much less impactful than the 30×30 agenda and we call on them to join us in demanding the Biden Administration comply with NEPA.”
Garfield County, Colorado, is also calling for the Administration to conduct a thorough NEPA analysis. Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, stated: “The Administration’s request for ‘information’ and the subsequent ‘listening sessions’ for the development of the Atlas, are a further demonstration of their efforts to avoid accountability and transparency. This is a ruse to appear as if they are listening to the people without going through any formal rulemaking, congressional authorization, or NEPA process.”
“If we are to believe that 30×30 is truly about ‘locally driven conservation,’ then the Biden Administration should use the NEPA process to accomplish this, as required by law,” stated Tanya Storer, Chairman of the Cherry County, Nebraska, Board of Commissioners, a co-submitter of the comments.
“This is the largest, unauthorized land grab we have ever faced,” noted Will Cavin, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for Chaves County, New Mexico, another co-submitter of the comments. “It is inappropriate for the Administration to continue advancing this program without the proper authorization to do so.”
The comments note: “A Presidential order to act, as with the exercise of any governmental power, must stem either from an act of Congress, or from the Constitution itself, or a combination of the two.” (Page 7). No such authority has been established for the 30×30 program. It was simply created by executive fiat.
“It is quite possible that the Biden Administration has avoided going through the NEPA process, because they lack the authority to initiate 30×30,” noted Byfield. “Preparing a NEPA study would require them to disclose that fact.”
Counties and Associations who agree with this position are invited to join the comments. To download a copy for review, go here. To join as a co-submitter, use this link. Deadline to join the comments is 1:00 pm, Monday, March 7th.