Democrats, Republicans recommend more input, detail on Biden conservation goals
Two separate groups of congressional lawmakers sent letters to President Biden this week regarding the administration’s conservation plan, with Democrats calling for local stakeholder input and Republicans expressing concerns it would disproportionately impact western states.
A group of predominantly western Democratic members wrote in a letter Tuesday in support of Biden’s executive order creating the 30 by 30 plan, which calls for conservation of 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
“As you know, collaboration with Tribes, States, local governments, private landowners, and the full range of stakeholders who use and enjoy our lands and waters is critical to ensuring that we can deliver on this bold vision,” they wrote. “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.”
Those who signed on to the House letter include House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Committee Vice Chairman Jesús García (D-Ill.) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands.
Senate signers include Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
The letter adds that the plan offers a “historic opportunity to affirm tribal sovereignty and self-determination.” The conservation plan offers an opportunity to support tribal conservation efforts and improve tribal relations with the federal government, it states. The letter came the day after the Senate confirmation of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous person to serve as a Cabinet secretary.
In their own letter Monday, more than 60 Republicans, including members of the Senate Western Caucus and some other senators expressed concerns that the goal does not include sufficient detail and concerns about Haaland’s responses when questioned about it.
They further said the western U.S. will likely be disproportionately affected by the goals due to a combination of its amount of federally owned lands and “wide-open” and “large-scale” landscapes.
Land management agencies, the members wrote, are subject to multiple-use mandates, which require lands and waters to remain available for uses supporting local rural economies such as agriculture, timber and energy production. The letter calls these activities “not only compatible with conservation ambitions, but … an effective means to achieve those goals.”
“Conservation remains a top priority for Western congressional members, and our constituents’ lives and livelihoods rely upon a healthy, actively-managed landscape,” they wrote. “However, the 30 by 30 initiative displays a dangerous thoughtlessness and far too many of our questions have been left unanswered.”
The Senate Republican letter was signed by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and James Risch (R-Idaho) and Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Darrel Issa (R-Calif.).
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