When the Biden Administration failed to publicly define “conservation” or even identify what lands qualify under his 30 x 30 initiative in the first report released last May, they had to expect criticism for hiding the ball. However, they had little choice but to back away from the well-defined agenda as the conservation ruse was exposed.
However, the Administration’s release of their “America the Beautiful” report was a rebranding of the agenda, not an abandonment of the goal. In a classic “nothing to see here” move, they claim they are not talking about “protecting,” but merely “conserving” the lands, even though they are unable to define the difference.
The progressive left has failed to make a credible case for permanently protecting 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030. For instance, as pointed out by Attorney Norm James in an article he wrote at the beginning of this debate, proponent’s arguments can be unraveled using simple math.
Based on their claim, that we are losing a football field of land every 30 seconds to development (about 3,000 acres a day), this totals 1.1 million acres a year, and 11 million acres in ten years. Why then are proponents seeking to permanently protect, or “conserve” nearly 700 million acres by 2030?
Nevertheless, there are those unwittingly giving credibility to the 30 x 30 agenda by advocating lands that should be considered conserved under 30 x 30.
A recent example of how this is playing out is through the current debate of whether federal grazing lands should qualify to help meet the goal. National livestock organizations are advocating that they should. They have been admirably championing the message that grazing is beneficial to the land and is one of the best conservation tools that leads to increased biodiversity and wildlife, improved water resources, and the reduction of wildfires.
However, the radical environmental response to this is predictable. “Right now it’s ridiculous to think that grazing lands across the West are worthy of inclusion toward 30 by 30,” stated WildEarth Guardians’ public lands attorney Chris Krupp in an Environment and Energy News (E & E) article entitled, “Could Conservation Plan Prompt Tougher Grazing Oversight.” He continues by affirming the environmental position: “The grazing program is actively harming biodiversity.”
The Biden Administration’s response then becomes the “reasonable” position. “BLM Deputy Director of Policy and Programs Nada Culver and Forest Service’s National Forest System Deputy Chief Chris French suggested last month that active grazing lands could be included,” reported E & E News’s Jennifer Yaknin. “Culver framed her explanation, however, by asserting that to qualify those lands could be subject to new grazing or management practices.”
Some of these new policies are already quietly being promulgated and released at DOI. September 22, 2021, the Bureau of Land Management issued Instruction Memorandum (IM) No. 2021-046, which reinstates the Obama-era landscape-scale compensatory mitigation policy. This will require mitigation to resolve adverse effects on the resources. What needs to be mitigated will be determined by the “best available science,” which to the Biden Administration includes the politically-charged climate crisis propaganda. Under this reinstated IM, new and revised land use plans must consider the adverse impacts of grazing and develop mitigation requirements for grazing to continue.
That also explains why the only public mention of this reinstated policy came from The Nature Conservancy. The compensatory part of this mitigation will need public-private partnerships to ensure compliance. Land trusts will be on the receiving end of the conservation programs, while ranchers are saddled with more restrictions, that is if grazing isn’t eventually phased out.
The Nature Conservancy’s Chief External Affairs Officer Lynn Scarlett noted the need for the reinstated IM this way:
“It also supports the administration’s twin goals of addressing the climate crisis and accelerating conservation of our lands, waters and ocean through the America the Beautiful initiative. Clear and consistent mitigation policies have long garnered support across the political spectrum and have fostered local solutions to landscape-use challenges. We commend the agency for advancing policies that will lead to positive outcomes for people and nature.”
Once the adverse impacts are mitigated to the satisfaction of a largely anti-grazing crowd now running the Department of Interior, it is highly plausible these federal grazing lands may be included. But at what cost to the ranching industry? It would be naïve to assume that the Biden Administration would accept these grazing lands as they are managed today, which the federal representatives have already confirmed.
You can expect those organizations that benefit from the conservation easement programs to support grazing lands to be included as a part of 30 x 30, as long as these are “properly” mitigated.
Progressives in the U.S. House and Senate have also been waiting for this moment. In June 2020, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released their report of policy changes necessary to implement the climate crisis agenda. Page 428, of this report, “Solving the Climate Crisis,” begins the discussion on what is needed to accomplish the conservation of “at least” 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030. A rewrite of the federal land management laws that apply to federal land grazing, is one of the primary recommended changes. It reads:
“Recommendation: Under existing law, federal natural resource agencies already have a responsibility and ample authority to manage lands for climate change and prioritize conservation. However, the organic statutes for America’s natural resource agencies are decades old and were developed without the benefit of the current scientific understanding of human-caused climate change. Congress should review and, where applicable, update these laws to firmly and unequivocally establish that confronting climate change and conserving and restoring America’s natural systems – for the benefit of all communities – should be an essential mandate for all U.S. natural resource agencies.” (Page 431)
We’ve already seen groups claim victory because the Administration’s May report stated they would respect property rights, even though this tactic was published in the early environmental publications as necessary to get landowners’ buy-in. We hope for the sake of federal land ranchers that we do not see the day when the same groups claim victory because grazing lands are counted as 30 x 30 conservation lands as long as they are “properly” mitigated.
The only position we can be assured of in this debate is that the left will never have enough. America’s landowners have everything to lose, and the eco-left has everything to gain if we do not hold them accountable for pursuing the largest federal land grab our nation has ever faced.
Yesterday’s election beat-down of progressive-left policies should give those straddling the fence reason to stand firm. There is absolutely no reason we should concede even one acre.