Western Caucus Members Affirm Commitment to Conservation, Demand Answers on ‘30 by 30’ Initiative

“The 30 by 30 initiative displays a dangerous thoughtlessness, and far too many of our questions have been left unanswered.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-04) joined Chairmen Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) of the Congressional & Senate Western Caucuses led 12 Senate Members and 50 House Members of the respective Caucuses in sending a letter to President Biden asking important clarifying questions about the Biden Administration’s Executive Order establishing a directive to put restrictions on at least 30% of lands and waters by 2030 (30 by 30).

“The lack of detail accompanying this goal, the inability of your nominee for Secretary of the Interior – author of the mirroring legislation – to answer questions about this initiative, and the fact that this effort is spearheaded by an unconfirmed appointee housed in the National Climate Task Force has resulted in numerous concerns raised by those who live, work, and recreate on and near public lands,” wrote the lawmakers.

Western Caucus Members outlined their concern that Western states would be disproportionately impacted by the 30 by 30 Initiative and demanded President Biden provide details about how he plans to accomplish this goal without harming the industries, economies, and ways of life in Western and rural communities.

“The West is already paving the way on conservation,” they wrote. “Stewardship of our lands is embedded in our Western values. Sustainable, healthy land is the lifeblood of our rural communities and our outdoor heritage and rural economies thrive when our lands are properly managed. While the Administration has implied that multiple-use is not contrary to conservation, recent activities that attack key industries suggest otherwise.”

The federal government manages 640 million acres of land, over 90% of which is west of the Mississippi River. The Western Caucus supports policies to promote active land management, multiple-use, locally-led conservation efforts, and public land access that benefits local, rural communities and strengthens economic development throughout rural America.

They continued, “Conservation remains a top priority for Western congressional members, and our constituents’ lives and livelihoods rely upon a healthy, actively-managed landscape. However, the 30 by 30 initiative displays a dangerous thoughtlessness and far too many of our questions have been left unanswered.”

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear President Biden,

More than 100 years ago, the National Park Service was founded as a program to protect 35 established national monuments including the very first national park. In the years to follow, America continued to build upon this conservation legacy—enacting laws on a bipartisan basis to ensure conservation and stewardship principles were the foundation of public land management. However, over the last two decades, litigation, preservationist ideology, bureaucratic processes, and executive actions have undermined multiple-use and sustained yield statutory mandates—particularly in the West. It is for this reason that we write to express our concern regarding the lack of information and ambiguous goals for the Biden Administration’s Executive Order establishing a directive to protect at least 30% of our lands and waters by 2030 (30 by 30).

The lack of detail accompanying this goal, the inability of your nominee for Secretary of the Interior – author of the mirroring legislation – to answer questions about this initiative, and the fact that this effort is spearheaded by an unconfirmed appointee housed in the National Climate Task Force has resulted in numerous concerns raised by those who live, work, and recreate on and near public lands. The federal government manages 640 million acres of land, over 90% of which is west of the Mississippi. Given our wide-open spaces, large-scale landscapes, and significant federal ownership, Western states will be disproportionately impacted by policies set in place to achieve the 30 by 30 goal, which we fear will impact revenues-derived and jobs that depend upon multiple-use public lands.

We urge you to remember that land management agencies are bound by a statutory-based multiple-use mandate. Our lands and our waters must remain open to activities that support our rural economies and help us to achieve our agriculture, timber, recreation, energy, and mineral needs. These multiple-uses are not only compatible with conservation ambitions, but they are an effective means to achieve these goals. Healthy lands and sustainable wildlife are inherent to our hunting, recreation, and sportsmen opportunities. Activities such as grazing and timber harvest are oftentimes the most effective tool to restore and sustain landscapes. Bonding requirements, reclamation standards, and mitigation directives ensure that extractive industries leave the land better than they found it—in addition, these activities fund several conservation programs. Each use goes through extensive environmental review and public comment.

The West is already paving the way on conservation. Stewardship of our lands is embedded in our Western values. Sustainable, healthy land is the lifeblood of our rural communities and our outdoor heritage and rural economies thrive when our lands are properly managed. While the Administration has implied that multiple-use is not contrary to conservation, recent activities that attack key industries suggest otherwise. Multiple-use is compatible with conservation, and the United States Geological Survey has already illustrated 30% of our lands are in some degree of conservation status. Recently, the Administration has clarified that private lands are included in this initiative, setting the stage for potential egregious federal overreach. While these lands contribute to overall conservation, subjecting private landowners to this nebulous federal program is an extreme breach of private property rights. More clarity is desperately needed.

Therefore, we remain concerned that the 30 by 30 initiative will be used as a method to undermine private property rights, circumvent the multiple-use mandate, and lock up more land.

Conservation remains a top priority for Western congressional members, and our constituents’ lives and livelihoods rely upon a healthy, actively-managed landscape. However, the 30 by 30 initiative displays a dangerous thoughtlessness and far too many of our questions have been left unanswered. It is also our understanding that key constituencies have yet to be engaged on this initiative. As such, we respectfully urge you to provide state and local governments, the energy, minerals, and agriculture sectors, tribes, sportsmen, and recreationists an equitable and meaningful voice in the process. We also request a detailed briefing with the signers of this letter within 60 days of the Executive Order being signed.

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