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Not long after taking office, President Biden issued an executive order to conserve and protect 30 percent of U.S. lands and freshwater and 30 percent of the nation’s seas. It has since been referred to as the 30×30 plan. Other than the goals, little about how the plan will be implemented has been released to the public until today.

The administration just released a 22-page report called “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful.” It’s worth reading, but is really more of a wish list, light on details for how the ambitious 30×30 initiative would be actually be carried out. What it does do is lay out the challenge: Climate change is going to be, is now, in fact, a serious problem that must be addressed; a widespread extinction crisis threatens ecosystems across the country; and inequitable access to clean open spaces deprives millions of not only the use of public lands for recreation, but clean water and air.

So, how is the government planning to conserve all that land and water? And what does it mean by “conserve”? Well, the report doesn’t say.

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Really, it’s more of a call to arms. A vision statement.

From the report:

This report is only the starting point on the path to fulfilling the conservation vision that President Biden has outlined. Where this path leads over the next decade will be determined not by our agencies, but by the ideas and leadership of local communities. It is our job to listen, learn, and provide support along the way to help strengthen economies and pass on healthy lands, waters, and wildlife for generations to come.

The report envisions an America where public and private lands work together to provide wildlife corridors, stewardship of watersheds, preservation of open spaces for everyone to enjoy. The plan aims to rely on volunteers and local management of conservation programs, with government help where needed. People on the ground, in places that are targets for conservation will be the eyes, ears, brains, and muscle to get things done. States, cities, counties, and tribes will all lead the way. Though there is mention of establishing national parks in underserved areas, the America the Beautiful plan is not predicated on federal creation of protected parks and forestlands, but a weaving of public and private lands to achieve the conservation goal.

The plan “provides national leadership on the biggest challenges we face in creating a sustainable, livable planet, while recognizing that solutions to climate change, conservation and access to nature must come from the ground up and be driven at the local level,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement.

According to the report, a range of viewpoints from stakeholders (aren’t we all here) were included, and questions you’d expect to be raised, were. What counts as conservation? How will progress be measured? The report doesn’t really answer those questions, other than to say this is a big job, and this report is simply outlining what needs to be done, and how we think we can do it. We’ll analyze results along the way to see if we’re making progress.

It’s a complicated report, difficult to distill in a few paragraphs. But it’s also the first real national conservation plan, and an acknowledgment that there is much work to be done. Would be nice to see more concrete details, however.

Read the report here.

Photo: Holly Mandarich

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