March 16, 2021

Congressman Neguse, Lawmakers Urge President Biden to Center Local Communities in Conservation Goals

Neguse, Grijalva, Blumenthal and Luján write to President Biden to request stakeholder inclusion in 30 by 30 conservation process 

Washington D.C.—Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) sent a bicameral letter, cosigned by 99 House and 17 Senate Democratic colleagues, to President Biden urging him to adopt a transparent, stakeholder-driven process in deciding how best to preserve American lands and waters as part of the administration’s “30 by 30” initiative. Choosing which areas to preserve, the lawmakers write, should be done in consultation with locally affected communities and should take the economic benefits of conservation into account.

 “Our approach has always been to lead locally and listen first. Through collaboration with Coloradans, we were able to usher the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act through the House three times. We know the bill will serve Coloradans, because it was written by Coloradans over more than a decade and includes the input of our local communities, conservationists, sportsmen and outdoor businesses,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “As we take on broader conservation goals, and strive to conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030, we must continue to center local communities in the process. Our request to President Biden is this, that as we make these decisions about what areas to conserve, we start by listening to the communities that know them best.” 

The full letter is available here. 

The “30 by 30” initiative is spurred by the growing scientific consensus that it will be necessary to preserve 30 percent of America’s lands and 30 percent of its waters within the next decade, both to prepare for the already unavoidable effects of climate change and to prevent further catastrophic loss of habitat for wildlife and endangered species. 

Stakeholder input on how best to achieve those goals will be crucial, the lawmakers write:

“By marshaling the expertise of U.S. agencies and relying on local and indigenous knowledge and wisdom we can meet the scale of the challenges facing our natural systems. Tribal councils, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, conservationists, recreationists, hunters, and local governments will all play critical roles. For many of these stakeholders, conserving our shared environment will have immediate and lasting impacts on their lives and livelihoods, which is why we urge you to pursue this ambitious goal through a transparent, stakeholder driven process.”

While the exact means by which the initiative will be carried out are not finalized, the wide diversity of House and Senate signatories from across the spectrum of the Democratic Party demonstrate broad consensus on the importance of meeting the 30 by 30 goals.

As the lawmakers point out, the crises we already face – to say nothing of future challenges – demand more than simply scaling up current efforts. Our environmental policies will have to take advantage of large-scale spatial planning to identify, conserve, and protect climate-resilient habitats and to mitigate deforestation, land use conversion, overfishing and climate change impacts.

The 30 by 30 initiative can be a major economic driver if implemented well, the lawmakers point out. Every $1 million invested in federal conservation programs helps generate more than 30 jobs and generates $4 million in economic value from natural resource goods and services alone. The process of conserving lands and waters will create well-paying jobs that bolster communities across the country, promote a just transition away from fossil fuels, and support rural economies for landowners who manage some of the most biodiverse lands and waters in the United States.