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Significant progress toward 30 by 30 goal, says White House

The goal is to conserve 30% of U.S. land and waters by 2030.

In a progress report, the Biden administration said on Monday that it has “made significant progress to support effective and enduring conservation strategies” en route to conserving 30% of U.S. land and waters by 2030.

The “30 by 30” plan relies on locally led and voluntary stewardship but has been met in some regions with suspicion of a hidden federal motive.

President Biden embraced the idea a year ago, before he took office.

“This is the first national conservation goal we have ever set as a nation,” said White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy in May, when the administration launched the 10-year America the Beautiful initiative to achieve the goal.

The White House said the new $1 trillion infrastructure law “provides a major boost” to the “30 by 30” initiative with “the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.”

In a step coordinated with the release of the report, the USDA modified its Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to make it easier for state and local “partners” to take part. Under CREP, landowners who take fragile cropland out of production qualify for incentives, such as higher payment rates than the standard Conservation Reserve rate. There are 34 CREP projects in 26 states covering 860,000 acres. CREPs are aimed at land with high environmental benefits.

The progress report said the initiative for conservation of public, private, and tribal lands and waters would create jobs, mitigate climate change, and improve access to the outdoors.

“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,” wrote the four co-chairs of the inter-agency working group. They are the secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce and Brenda Mallory, who chairs the Council on Environmental Quality. The co-chairs said the report was a snapshot rather than a catalogue of activities.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts suggested last summer that “30 by 30” was a land grab and said too few details were available. “Define what you mean by conservation,” said the Republican at a town hall meeting in Wahoo, Nebraska. He also spoke against conservation easements, a tool to limit uses of land, as a threat to local tax revenue, reported KETV-TV.

An estimated 12% of U.S. land and 28% of its ocean territories are under some form of environmental protection at present.

The “Year One report, America the Beautiful” is available here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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