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Biden's gov't aims to protect lands, waters in 'America the Beautiful' report

By
Don Johnson
The plan says voluntary conservation efforts by U.S. farmers and ranchers will be key to meeting the goal of conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. File Photo by JK Floyd/Shutterstock
The plan says voluntary conservation efforts by U.S. farmers and ranchers will be key to meeting the goal of conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. File Photo by JK Floyd/Shutterstock

May 6 (UPI) -- Three departments of President Joe Biden's administration rolled out an environmental plan Thursday that aims to increase conservation for U.S. lands and waters over the next decade.

The 22-page "America the Beautiful" report from the Commerce, Interior and Agriculture departments gives a broad overview of how the administration intends to reach its goals. The plan is also part of the president's strategy in fighting climate change.

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The report, submitted to the National Climate Task Force, outlines principles to guide the nationwide effort, including a commitment to supporting "the voluntary conservation efforts of farmers, ranchers, and fishers" while honoring tribal sovereignty and private property rights.

It says voluntary conservation efforts by farmers and ranchers will be key to meeting Biden's goal of conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

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Biden signed an executive order establishing the "30 by 30," signifying the 30% goal by 2030, during his first days in office in January.

The report doesn't give details about how conservation will be measured against the 2030 goal. It also doesn't cite specific lands to be protected. It does identify broad priority areas, including the creation of more parks and "safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities."

Other priorities include expanding conservation for fish and wildlife habitats and corridors and creating jobs by investing in initiatives like the Civilian Climate Corps. Part of the progressive Green New Deal, the group would work on climate-related federal projects.

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The report also says that "maintaining ranching in the West -- on both public lands and private lands -- is essential to maintaining the health of wildlife, the prosperity of local economies, and an important and proud way of life."

"Efforts to conserve and restore America's lands and waters must respect the rights of private property owners. Such efforts must also build trust among all communities and stakeholders, including by recognizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of private landowners and the science-based approaches of fishery managers."

About 12% of U.S. lands are protected, according to U.S. Geological Survey data, along with about 11% of freshwater ecosystems.

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In response to concerns from farming, hunting and fishing groups, the proposal emphasizes that private property rights will be honored and stewardship efforts of private landowners and fishers will be voluntary.

In April, the American Farm Bureau Federation sent Biden a letter asking that public lands used for grazing be identified as "conserved" under the plan's definition.

"Any discussion about conservation must begin with the recognition that farmers and ranchers are already leaders in this space and have been for decades," the letter said, according to The Washington Post.

Some Republicans in Congress have filed resolutions opposing the plan.

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