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Analyzing the 30x30 Initiative

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 4, 2021 -

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) led a virtual forum on the Biden administration's proposed 30x30 initiative.

"At this point, the administration has failed to develop its policy beyond a catchy tagline," Westerman said during the forum. "They have not defined a baseline of current conservation practices, established metrics for measuring progress, or even provided a clear understanding of how they define the word 'conservation.' We, like almost everyone else, are left with even more questions. However, that hasn’t stopped us from putting forward our vision for the future. Rather than setting a haphazard goal and locking up millions of acres of lands and water, the U.S. should focus on science-based, pro-growth and community supported conservation efforts with a measurable track record of results, solutions and success. True conservation is about managing our lands and waters for their environmental quality, not quantity, and it’s about following the scientific principles embodied in numerous federal, state and local fish and wildlife laws. This is truly the best path forward to ensuring we have a healthy environment that we will leave better than we found it."


The Biden administration's 30x30 initiative is a proposal that would put 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters under strict environmental regulations by 2030. Details on exactly what these guidelines would entail remain forthcoming, despite repeated requests for more information from both Congress and various stakeholders. If, for example, the administration classifies these lands and waters as wilderness areas or marine protected areas, it would close them off to multiple uses.

President Biden issued an executive order mandating the Department of Interior (DOI) complete a 30x30 report by April 27, 2021; however, while DOI sent this report to the White House, it has not been made available to either Congress or the public. 

The panel of members heard from the following witnesses during the Republican forum on this initiative:

The Honorable Greg Chilcott, commissioner, Ravalli County, Mont.
Dr. Ray Hilborn, professor, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington 
Brian Yablonski, president, Property and Environment Research Center
Erica Tergeson, director of hunting policy, National Rifle Association 
Tripp Parks, vice president of government affairs, Western Energy Alliance

"Counties urge the administration to work with Congress and state and local governments to develop long-term strategies to achieve the 30x30 goal," Chilcott said. "The best conservation policies are created when federal land managers and their partners in local government are looking at the same piece of ground at the same time, rather than one-size fits all policies imposed by agencies in Washington, DC. Thank you again for the opportunity to share our story and some of our ideas for improving the health of our landscapes and watersheds."

"I believe we should protect 100 percent of U.S. oceans, not 30 percent," Hilborn said. "We should do that through the existing institutions. If a case can be made that some species or communities are not being protected, then the Councils should be mandated to specifically protect them. New mandates, such as ocean protection, should have clear and measurable objectives, and evaluation timelines specified. Councils should be tasked with evaluating alternative actions to achieving those objectives. In some cases, MPAs may be the best tool, but they will not always be the best tool. Let us achieve our biodiversity and food production objectives using good science and effective policy."

"As 30x30 guidelines are developed, policymakers should remember that the focus needs to be on conservation outcomes rather than restrictive inputs," Yablonski said. "Now is the time to evaluate what conservation really means and how it can best be achieved. Regulation and a focus on designations will hinder the ability to engage on conservation with private landowners and promote healthy public lands. By instead upholding private property rights and flexible management, we can find collaborative approaches to enhance clean water, wildlife habitat, open space, and other environmental benefits. The great naturalist Aldo Leopold once wrote, 'Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.' With the president’s goal to conserve 30 percent of our nation’s lands, Secretaries Haaland and Vilsack would be wise to etch those words on the walls of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture as a daily reminder of the ambitious task ahead."

"While levels of anthropogenic activity in various land and water management strategies can vary greatly, only those strategies that target conservation needs with measurable outcomes will be effective," Tergeson said. "We support 30x30 policies that are not merely aspirational, but that recognize existing management levels/actions that currently afford protections and work to identify additional conservation needs and actions through an objective, science-driven, stakeholder-engaged process to determine the appropriate level of management actions necessary to meet biodiversity conservation goals. Furthermore, we support 30x30 policies that recognize hunting and fishing as well-managed and sustainable activities that are in harmony with other management goals. Maintaining the sense of connection to our abundant resources and unrivaled natural beauty that these activities provide is essential to ensuring we have natural resource and biodiversity stewards for the next century, just as we have had in the past."

"Continued oil and natural gas production on federal lands is vital to sustaining economies and local communities in the West, and any unlawful actions by the administration to achieve a 30x30 conservation goal will have enormous consequences," Parks said. "The administration should make clear how it plans to achieve this vague, aspirational goal and should not act to limit energy development on federal lands in the absence of explicit authorization from Congress."

Watch the full forum here.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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