The 30 x 30 Land Grab
By Governor Pete Ricketts
July 20, 2021
Governor’s official photo here.
On January 27, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed his “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” In this order, President Biden set a “goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.” At the time of the signing, very little information was released by the Biden-Harris Administration. We only had the few paragraphs of text in the order and a short fact sheet from the Department of Interior stating “that only 12% of lands are permanently protected.”
As I learned about 30 x 30, I became very concerned because Nebraska has a long history of respecting private property rights. 97% of our land in Nebraska is privately owned. Achieving 30 x 30 would require restricting a land area the size of nine states of Nebraska, or in other words a landmass twice the size of Texas by 2030. In an effort to learn more about 30 x 30, I led a coalition of 15 Governors who wrote to President Biden in April asking for more details. In our letter, we outlined a series of questions seeking more information about the administration’s plans. So far, the President and his agencies have not responded.
To date, much of what we do know about the administration’s plans comes from the environmental groups who invented this goal. Environmental groups have been talking about conserving wide swaths of natural resources for quite some time. While President Biden’s adoption of this goal may have been surprising to some, the concept is not new. The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, which first convened in 1992, had set a worldwide goal of conserving 17% of the world’s land by 2020 and recently set a new goal of 30% by 2030. Here in the United States, the Center for American Progress (CAP) published a report in 2019 titled “How Much Nature Should America Keep?” In the report, CAP not only endorses the 30% goal but also advances arguments that 50% should be secured by 2050.
In May, the Biden-Harris Administration released a short report rebranding 30 x 30 as “America the Beautiful.” This new report, which touts the endorsements of a number of environmental groups, provides few new details about how 30 x 30 will be implemented. There is a notable difference in this report: The report clarifies that the administration will consider a “continuum of effective conservation,” and drops the “permanently protected” language previously used by the Department of Interior.
Since May, no new details about 30 x 30 have been released, but the environmental groups that want this goal have ramped up their promotion of the initiative. As federal agencies and environmental groups try to sell the 30 x 30 land grab to the public, here are two myths that you may keep hearing.
First, environmental groups will say that science demands that we protect 30% of our land and water, but even they will admit that 30 x 30 isn’t based on science. The 2019 CAP report states, “Science should inform this debate… But numbers alone cannot adequately answer the question of how much of America’s lands, waters, and wildlife the country wishes to protect.” Furthermore, the so-called “America the Beautiful” report makes it even clearer that this goal isn’t about science by refusing to define the term “conservation.” How are we supposed to know what is conserved or even what the goal of “conservation” is when the federal government doesn’t define it? By opting for ambiguity, the Biden-Harris Administration has left the door open to the radical demands of environmental groups and their sweeping ambitions for more federal control over our land and water.
Second, the “America the Beautiful” report argues that 30 x 30 will rely on voluntary programs—a statement that is disingenuous at best. According to the Biden-Harris Administration, we are at 12% of land conserved today using the existing conservation programs. There is no way to get to 30% using the existing voluntary programs. These programs have been around for decades, and there’s no reason to think that you will go from 12% to 30% in the next nine years just by using them. Either the Biden-Harris Administration is going to fall far short or they aren’t telling the whole story.
Here in Nebraska, we are not waiting for more details from the Biden-Harris Administration and the radical environmental groups that are their closest allies on 30 x 30. We are taking action to stop the 30 x 30 land grab. Over half of Nebraska’s counties have passed resolutions formally opposing 30 x 30. Last month, I hosted county commissioners and ag leaders in Lincoln to sign an Executive Order aimed at stopping the implementation of 30 x 30. Under the order, the State of Nebraska will provide training to counties to help them stop 30 x 30, and provide more oversight of conservation programs managed by the state.
Whether it’s the 30 x 30 land grab or expanding Waters of the U.S., the federal government is trying to take more control of private property. As President Biden and his agencies continue to roll out their plans, Nebraska will be working to push back on federal overreach. If you have questions about this or any other matter, you’re welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-471-2244. Together, we can protect the rights of Nebraskans to be good stewards of our land and water.