In this Issue we take a deep dive into the efforts to implement the 30 x 30 program.
* Op-Ed: The 30 x 30 Land Grab
By Norman D. James, Fennimore Craig, P.C.
* Garfield County Leads Campaign Opposing 30 x 30
* How to Fight the Land Grab
* New Order Revokes State and County Veto of Land Acquisition
The “30 x 30” Land Grab, by Norman D. James
In a sweeping Executive Order addressing global climate change, issued on January 27, President Biden imposed a number of requirements on federal agencies, while halting oil and natural gas leasing on federal land and offshore waters and promising to create “well-paying” union jobs for workers.
An overlooked aspect of this EO is Mr. Biden’s commitment to an objective called “30 x 30,” buried in section 216 of the EO. The term “30 x 30” refers to conserving 30% of our country’s lands and waters by the year 2030. While the EO’s language is fuzzy, “conserving” apparently means preserving these areas in a natural or undisturbed state.
A “fact sheet” issued by the Department of the Interior in support of the EO provides additional detail. It explains that the “30 x 30” goal has been recommended by “scientists” (who are unnamed). It also states that although 60% of the land in the continental United States is in a natural state, we are losing an entire football field worth of this land every 30 seconds. Moreover, only 12% of the land in the U.S. is “permanently protected,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey. We also are told that the loss of undisturbed land threatens nearly one-third of all U.S. wildlife with extinction. Therefore, 30% of the county’s land base must be preserved in the next decade.
To appreciate what this really means, let’s start by examining land ownership in the United States. According to the Congressional Research Service, Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data (updated 2020), there are about 2.27 billion acres of land in the U.S. The federal government currently owns and manages about 640 million acres, or about 28% of all land. Four federal agencies manage over 600 million acres or about 95% of all federal land. Those agencies are the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.
Federal land is not evenly distributed across the United States. For example, only 0.3% of the land in Connecticut and Iowa is federally managed, compared to over 80% of the land in Nevada. In fact, 15 states, mainly in the Northeast and Midwest, each have less than 500,000 acres of federal land. On the other hand, the 11 states in the western U.S., along with Alaska, contain more than 560 million acres of federal land. In those states, the average percentage of federal land is nearly 46%. Notably, this does not include Tribal land, which comprises a significant percentage of the land base of most western states.
This extremely uneven distribution of federal land and its associated resources has created numerous issues, including, most critically, achieving a fair balance between our national interests and those of the states and localities, where federal land is often integral to the local economy.
Under Mr. Biden’s new EO, however, at least 30% of all land in the U.S. would be permanently set aside and maintained in a natural state. Activities such as energy development, forest management, livestock grazing, mineral exploration and development, and many recreational uses would be prohibited. This would require at least 680 million acres of land to be set aside – more land than the entire federal government currently manages.
Where will land be obtained for this program? The Department of Interior states that the new administration “will work to achieve this 30 x 30 goal by supporting local, state, private, and tribally led nature conservation and restoration efforts that are underway across America.” This is far-fetched, at best. These “efforts,” while commendable, are limited in scope and will not come close to meeting the objective of preserving 30% of all land in the U.S.
The EO does not mention any land acquisition program, under which state and private land would be acquired by the federal government and permanently preserved, although such a program will almost certainly be needed to achieve the President’s goal.
But in reality, most of the land dedicated to achieving the 30 x 30 goal necessarily will be the federal land found in the 11 western states and Alaska. Forcing rural communities and businesses that depend on the use of public lands and national forests to bear the brunt of the program would be inequitable. There is no other alternative, however.
Is this incredibly disruptive program really necessary? As noted above, the Department of Interior’s “fact sheet” emphasizes – in bold letters – that we are losing a football field worth of undisturbed land every 30 seconds. That sounds like a lot of land. Let’s do the math.
A football field is slightly larger than an acre. So, losing a football field of land every 30 seconds amounts to losing roughly 2 acres per minute, or about 3,000 acres per day. That equals 1.1 million acres per year, or 11 million acres per decade. Eleven million acres is just 0.5% of all land in the U.S., and 1.7% of the land already owned by the federal government. Does that justify permanently preserving some 680 million acres of land, concentrated in the western states?
The “fact sheet” also states that only 12% of the land in the U.S. is already “permanently protected.” That amounts to over 270 million acres of land. It is 25 times the amount of land that purportedly will be lost over the next 10 years.
The bottom line is that “30 x 30” is an excuse to end the productive use of our public lands and national forests and to set aside massive tracts of land for non-use. This is not how Congress has required our public lands and national forests to be administered.
Garfield County, CO Leads Campaign to Pass Resolution Opposing 30 x 30
February 16, 2021, the Board of Commissioners for Garfield County, Colorado unanimously passed a resolution opposing the 30 x 30 program included in the Climate Crisis Executive Order (EO) signed by President Biden, January 27th. The 30 x 30 agenda has been advanced by the Center for American Progress, which seeks to permanently preserve 30 % of America’s land and oceans by the year 2030.
The County resolution sets forth the reasons for their opposition, primarily the social and economic harm that will occur if more land in the County is permanently set aside. The federal government is already the largest landowner in the County, holding 62.3% of the land base, or 1,100,000 acres.
Concerning to the County is the new administration’s emphasis on permanently protecting land in its natural state instead of following the policies established by Congress, which include principles of multiple-use and sustained yield. “The 30 x 30 program is a significant ideological shift with real impacts to Counties like ours that depend on the use of natural resources to support our economy,” commented Commissioner Tom Jankovsky.
The Resolution notes there is no constitutional or statutory authority for the President to set aside and permanently preserve 30 % of America’s land. Additionally, the policy is in direct conflict with Garfield County’s Natural Resource Coordination Plan.
DOI is tasked with leading the federal departments to prepare a report on how the 30 x 30 program will be implemented. The report is due within 90 days of the EO’s signing. The EO specifically directs the federal departments to work with local governments on the program.
The County Board is requesting a meeting with the Department of Interior (DOI) in the next 60 days.
“It is critical that the new administration and agency personnel hear directly from Counties like ours on the impact of this program to our communities, while they are preparing their action plans,” noted Jankovsky. “Here we go again with top-down policies from Washington D.C. that have direct and adverse effects on local communities. We are the people directly impacted by this EO and these policies.”
Garfield County is also planning to deliver the Resolution to their State and Federal Representatives, as well as other federal agencies that may be tasked with carrying out the agenda.
We are calling on local governments across the nation to follow Garfield County and pass a resolution opposing 30 x 30.
To do this, we have prepared the “Guide to Fight the 30 x 30 Land Grab,” which you can download for free. Included in this package are fact sheets, resource links and two model resolutions: one for areas with federal lands, and one for areas with primarily private lands.
This can be distributed to your elected officials, industry associations and neighbors to educate your community and take action to oppose the program in your community. Get these to your County and Special Districts and request they oppose this program.
The first step to stopping this agenda is educating leaders at the local, State and Federal level. The League of Conservation Voters has been relying on a letter signed by 450 state and local elected officials to convince Congress to authorize the 30 x 30 agenda. We need to demonstrate there is significant opposition. Please click the link below and follow the action items to help us fight this devastating program.
New Order Revokes State and County Veto of Land Acquisition
February 11, 2021, Acting Secretary Scott de la Vega of the Department of Interior signed a Secretarial Order (3396) that revokes landowner protections the Trump Administration had put in place when making land acquisitions from monies distributed through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The fund, permanently funded for $900 million annually, is used to purchase land and conservation easements, fund projects that protect recreational use of public lands, and provide grants to states for urban open spaces and parks.
The now revoked Secretarial Order 3388, included a provision that required consent from Counties and States where land or an interest in land was being acquired by the federal government. Section 4(b)(7) of the Order required the following:
“A written expression of support by both the affected Governor and local county or county government-equivalent (e.g. parish, borough) is required for the acquisition of land, water, or an interest in land or water under the Federal LWCF program.”
Sec. Order 3396 revokes the entire order and instructs the agencies to revise the Land and Water Conservation Fund Assistance Manuals to ensure this provision, as well as others advanced by the Trump Administration, are stricken from agency policy.
Environmentalists applauded the move as reported by E&E News:
“Finally, the Biden administration today repealed Bernhardt's controversial secretarial order from last November that made far-reaching changes to how LWCF-funded federal land acquisitions could be accomplished, specifically by giving governors and local officials veto power over pending deals Greenwire, Nov. 13, 2020).
Critics said this move would have prevented conservation efforts in states where more conservative leaders are sensitive about losing too much private land — and suggested that catering to conservatives was exactly the intention.” (“Biden dumps Trump's LWCF changes, revives urban grants,” February 11, 2021)
The Biden Administration has stated they will work with local governments, States, and stakeholders as they move to permanently protect 30 % of Americas lands and oceans by 2030. However, this promise rings hollow as the new administration’s first act is to remove protections States and local governments had to object to their areas being targeted.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) issued a strong rebuke of the administration on Twitter. “Since day one, the Biden Admin has been treading on state authority. Pausing oil & gas leasing. Holding up permits. Today they rolled back a requirement to get support from affected governors and counties before acquiring land under the LWCF. This is wrong. States MATTER.”
The new President has been in office less than a month and already he has made clear he wants 30% of America’s land and oceans, and he is quickly dismantling landowner protections that could have halted the administrative states’ unprecedented land grab.
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