Can the proposed 30 by 30 plan be successful?

With the changing of the guard, comes new policies that affect private landowners. Below, we lay out the proposed 30 by 30 plan which looks at future conservation under the Biden administration.

What is the 30 by 30 Plan?

The plan known as “30 by 30” looks to conserve 30% of US water and land by 2030. This plan stems from the scientific belief that if we conserve 30% of the Earth’s land and water, we will be able to protect 75% of the Earth’s species. While 26% of US ocean waters have now been protected, we have only conserved 12% of the land.

Challenges Facing the Plan

Without the support and cooperation of private landowners, this plan to conserve 30% of the land will not be successful. While the President does have executive power to increase the protection of federal land, the most biodiverse and important ecological systems exist on private land including:

  • two-thirds of endangered species 
  • the majority of forests 
  • crucial migratory corridors that connect with large swaths of public lands

The majority of rural communities support conservation but prefer local level management not federal. The new administration needs to work with these communities and local agencies if they want “30 by 30” to work.

30 by 30 Plan would conserve 30% of water and land by 2030

Current Conservation Successes:

In order to have private landowners participate in conservation, there need to be incentives. There are a few incentive-based voluntary programs around the country that have been successful:

  • Western States Conservation Easement – voluntary donations in perpetuity that help private landowners with taxes
  • Conservation Reserve Program – a voluntary rental program that provides monetary incentives in exchange for the conservation of agricultural properties
  • Longleaf Initiative – a coalition of landowners, local governments, and nonprofits who have come together to bring back the Longleaf Pine
  • Sage Grouse Initiative – a program in 11 Western states that works with ranchers to restore grasslands and water habitats for the sage grouse

All of these programs focus on:

  • Monetary Incentives
  • Voluntary Involvement
  • Organization by Local Agencies

The current administration will need to look at the recent success of these existing programs to broaden the scope and success of “30 by 30”.

Other New Ideas Under Consideration

In addition to the existing programs, the administration is also looking at:

  • Short Term Programs: Conservation easement leases that last for 20-30 years. By using these short term leases, ranchers and farmers can avoid resale value concerns down the road.
  • Urban Conservation: While we tend to think of land conservation in a rural setting, the administration is looking to use conservation to benefit all communities including marginalized urban communities who usually don’t see a benefit to conservation.

Studies show that the majority of the country supports conservation. If this new administration wants to accomplish their 30 by 30 goal, they must cooperate with private landowners and work with local agencies in implementing policies at a regional level.

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