Fails to Provide Authority for Program
The Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) has finally responded to the 21 U.S. Senators who in May, requested that a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement be prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the President’s 30×30 agenda.
They have refused to prepare the required analysis. They have also failed to answer the Senator’s specific request that the agency provide the legal authorization by which they are carrying out the 30×30 program.
After comparing President Biden’s agenda to that of President Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation efforts in the early 1900’s, CEQ claimed that because 30×30 “is not a major federal action, but rather a goal to orient conservation efforts across the government, NEPA is not required at this time.” However, there are distinct differences between President Biden’s efforts and those of President Roosevelt, namely, Roosevelt had specific congressional authority for his actions.
U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), who led the Senator’s letter, was not impressed with CEQ’s position. He stated:
“Unsurprisingly, CEQ’s response to our letter was late and provided little to no response. While the Council is actively repealing and replacing the workable National Environmental Policy Act rules of the Trump administration, they are exempting themselves from following the unworkable rules they impose on everyone else. The American people see through the charade and are sick of the “rules for thee but not for me” mentality. It is inexplicable how the simplest swap or mitigation of federal land requires NEPA analysis, but the expense of billions of dollars to acquire millions of acres does not.”
The Senators had provided CEQ with well-reasoned and legally supported arguments as to why a NEPA analysis was required for 30×30. CEQ addressed none of their points and provided no substantive rebuttal supporting their position that they can ignore the federal law. The 30×30 program launched by President Biden in an executive order January 27th, 2021, seeks to protect 30 percent of America’s land and oceans, and is re-directing federal agencies’ actions towards achieving the initiative, all without preparing the environmental analysis as any other private, state or local entity would be required to do.
The CEQ letter concludes with the following statement: “Please be assured that NEPA will apply to major federal actions taken by a Federal agency to further the President’s conservation goal.”
And yet, there are many actions occurring throughout the agencies to achieve 30×30 without first preparing a NEPA analysis, despite CEQ’s “assurances.”
For instance, the Department of Interior recently announced allocating $1 Billion to the non-profit Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the 30×30 “goal.” Congress did not authorize the use of funds for this program. In fact, a group of House Republican Members have recently questioned the Department of Interior’s actions in a letter dated May 12, 2022. Allocating significant funds towards actions that will lead to the protection of 30 percent of the land and waters in the U.S, would on its face, qualify for analysis under the federal law.
Just last month, the Bureau of Land Management made the largest federal land acquisition in the State of Wyoming, 35,000 acres, without a NEPA analysis or prior notice of the action to Wyoming’s Governor. Senator Cramer is correct in pointing out that if this had been a federal land swap, NEPA would be required. However, when it comes to the Biden Administration’s outright acquisition of land, or changing how 30 percent of the land in America will be managed, they ignore, avoid and thwart the federal laws that inconveniently get in their way.
“The CEQ had an opportunity to silence the critics of 30×30 by simply providing the legal arguments substantiating their position that NEPA does not apply, as well as providing the congressional or constitutional authority under which they are carrying out the program,” commented Margaret Byfield, executive director of American Stewards of Liberty. “This would seem to be the simplest of tasks, and yet, once again they fail to do so, making it clear this agenda is not about conservation, but is about gaining control of American’s land by government edict.”
Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Representative Lauren Boebert, also sent a similar letter to CEQ requesting they prepare the required NEPA analysis. The CEQ has yet to provide a response to the House letter.