Energy & Environment

White House hails ‘significant progress’ on conservation goals

Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins are shown here in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument on May 12, 2017 outside Blanding, Utah.
Ancient granaries, part of the House on Fire ruins are shown here in the South Fork of Mule Canyon in the Bears Ears National Monument outside Blanding, Utah.

The White House hailed what it called “significant progress” on national conservation goals in the first year of its America the Beautiful initiative in a report Monday, including the restoration of two national monuments.

The initiative, announced in May, is a 10-year federal conservation program aiming to eventually release annual “State of Nature” reports and develop an “American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas” of land and water management data. It served as an update to the administration’s earlier “30×30” initiative, which aimed to preserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, although this remains a stated goal of the program.

In its progress report, the administration highlighted several steps it took on conservation over the course of 2021. It specifically pointed to the restoration of the full boundaries for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah, both of which were shrunk under the Trump administration.

The national monument restoration was widely praised by Native American organizations, which had lobbied for the move. However, it was sharply criticized by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Utah state officials, who accused the administration of freezing them out of the decision.

The report also cites the Biden administration’s proposal in November to curtail logging in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, another reversal from the Trump administration. It further points to the suspension of oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The report also presents the bipartisan infrastructure package President Biden signed in November as crucial to ongoing conservation efforts. It points to provisions in the spending package such as $13 billion toward tribal communities, $11.3 billion toward funding the reclaiming of abandoned mines and funding for the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership Program.

Jennifer Rokala, executive director at the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement that the work outlined in the report set the stage for Biden’s conservation efforts to be “his most lasting legacy.”

“If the administration follows through on the ambitious goals laid out in today’s report, President Biden would be able to point to millions of newly-protected acres across the country, driven by locally-led conservation efforts,” she said. 

Tags Conservation Joe Biden Mitt Romney

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