What’s going on with the America the Beautiful Initiative?
Since President Biden announced the national goal to conserve at least 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030, many questioned exactly what this meant and how the Administration planned to accomplish this goal. Last year’s January 27th Executive Order (EO) on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” directed agencies across the Administration to take various actions. The EO specifically directed the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture and other agencies, to submit a report annually on progress towards that goal. So, when the report was released on December 20th, we were interested to see what it entailed.
Of particular importance, this report does not include any measurement of conservation. This means that the Administration still does not have a baseline as to what percentage of our nations land and water are already in conversation and how much we need to conserve to reach the goals outlined in the EO. However, in the first quarter of 2022, there will be a public process to gather input on developing the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, which will “provide a more accessible and more comprehensive picture of conservation and restoration work in America.” Arizona Farm Bureau will closely monitor this process to ensure that land conserved by farmers and ranchers is included in the baseline of the percentage of land already in conservation.
This report also spends time highlighting work that is already well underway and sheds light on programs such as the Conversation Reserve Program that incentivizes farmers to conserve their land. This is in line with one of the goals laid out in the initial plan of incentivizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, ranchers, farmers, and forest owners. It is important that the Administration recognizes that to reach their goals of conserving 30 percent of the land by 2030, there will need to be voluntary and incentive-based programs that work for farmers, ranchers in the West.
Finally, the report stresses the need to respect private property rights. This is a principle that was highlighted in the original report, and we are pleased to see that this is a pillar that remains a priority moving into the second year of this initiative. These policies need not and must not infringe upon private property rights. Instead, they should support the stewardship values that are shared among families, businesses, and communities who make their livings off the land.
After nearly a year, we still don’t have much information about how the Administration will reach their goals outlined in the January 27th EO, but we are relieved to see that those who have been stewards of the land for generations are recognized as a stakeholder group needed to accomplish this goal.
To read the fact sheet and the report, click here.