On Thursday, the Biden administration released an ambitious and sweeping report, “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” breaking down its hopes to conserve 30% of land and water in the United States by 2030, as reported by Reuters. The Department of the Interior, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the Department of Agriculture and Commerce all contributed to the report.
“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,” officials wrote in the report. Basically, this approach prioritizes local efforts and voluntary participation over a national mandate. With literal decades of work outlined, this isn’t a quick fix or an easy task, but given that the literal planet is at stake every day we don’t act in the face of the climate crisis, conservation is hugely important.
The report identifies six areas the government should focus on in terms of what land should receive federal protection or similar investments. For example, preserving fish and wildlife habitats, supporting Tribal conservation efforts, creating more green spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities, especially in communities that have little nature as it is, creating incentives for fishers, farmers, ranchers, and forest owners to voluntarily conserve lands, and investing in restoration projects. The report also describes a new tool officials hope to develop in order to track conservation progress, called the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas.
“Where this path leads over the next decade will be determined not by our agencies, but by the ideas and leadership of local communities. It is our job to listen, learn, and provide support along the way to help strengthen economies and pass on healthy lands, waters, and wildlife for generations to come,” officials including Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo wrote in the report.
As you likely recall, this initiative is a direct opposite of what the Trump administration tried to achieve during his years of office, as his administration sought to make more federal land available for drilling and mining.
Now, this isn’t the first time this 30% promise has come up. In fact, President Joe Biden pledged to conserve 30% of land and water in the U.S. months ago, back into 2020. Biden stressed that he wanted to protect biodiversity, work toward climate change solutions on the national level, and slow extinction rates. Biden also directed Cabinet members to come up with recommendations for carrying out this goal after his first 100 days in office.
In terms of cost, White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy explained, “I don’t think that we’re prepared at this point to put a total figure on this,” as reported by CNN. The report outlines actions that could span decades, and as we know, the climate change crisis is growing every day, so no matter the price tag, saving the planet—and protecting the people and animals on it—is far from something we should try to cut corners on.