Thirteen days after President Biden initiated the 30×30 program, to “conserve at least 30 percent” of America’s lands and oceans by 2030, the acting Secretary at the Department of the Interior (DOI) rescinded a key policy protecting local communities from unwanted federal land acquisitions. Former Secretary of DOI, David Bernhardt, had required the federal government to obtain the consent of the county and state before funds from the Land and Water Conservation program could be used to purchase private property in an area.
It was a prudent policy that gave local communities an important voice in deciding whether, or how much of, a presence the federal government would have in their region. But it was quickly revoked by the new administration, seen as a hinderance to permanently protect 30 percent of America’s land from productive use.
The State of Wyoming is one of the recent victims. Last month, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it had acquired 35,670 acres in the Wyoming counties of Casper and Natron, and an additional 160 acres in Colorado, to create a 118 square mile preserve. It is the largest federal land acquisition ever made in Wyoming, and reportedly was done so without notice to the State’s Republican Governor, Mark Gordon.
The Governor is now considering different avenues to challenge the acquisition, and released the following statement published in Oil City News. “This action is not about limiting access for sportspeople or challenging the rights of private property owners,” Gordon said. “It is about whether the federal government can increase its land holdings without public scrutiny, or should it adhere to the same transparent process that private landowners are subject to if they sought to purchase or exchange federal land.”
Although the Biden Administration has assured the American people that the 30×30 program is locally driven and local communities will be deciding what “conservation” should look like in their area, the Wyoming acquisition and other examples demonstrate the assurances are not to be trusted.