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Republicans Unveil True Conservation Alternative to Biden 30x30 Plan

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The Biden administration talks a great game about conservation, but is intentionally misleading Americans about their agenda. 

Take the 30X30 push. 

Stemming from a January 27th Executive Order 14008 entitled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” Biden’s Interior Department has pledged to “protect” 30 percent of lands and water by 2030 through their “America the Beautiful” plan. 


While nice-sounding on the surface, many questions remain. Why is true conservation not clearly defined? What’s the federal government’s role here? And do we already conserve 30 percent of waters and lands in the U.S.? 

That’s what the jointly-released “Western Conservation Priorities” plan from the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses aims to clarify. 

America Already Conserves 30% of Lands and Waters

After being unveiled in May, “America the Beautiful” pledged to foster a “collaborative and inclusive approach to conservation” at the local level. It also promised to safeguard and protect private property rights. 

But what about their 30X30 goal by 2030? 

The Biden administration claims only 12 percent of federal public lands and waters are currently protected. Is this heavily-cited figure accurate? Quite the contrary. 

As I noted at Independent Women’s Forum’s blog last week, the U.S. currently protects over 40 percent of waters and lands for “long-term protection of biodiversity”: 

"According to the Western Conservation Principles report, over 30 percent of public waters and lands are already federally protected. They drew this figure from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Gap Analysis Project (GAP) on the Protected Areas Database of the U.S (PADUS).

Using available data on public lands comprising the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fishing and Wildlife, and U.S. Forest Service, here’s how much land is federally protected from any activity: 252,758,091 of 622,630,476 total acres. That comes out to 40.6 percent, not 12 percent."


Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse, a Republican representing Washington’s 4th Congressional District, told me the federal government could harm conservation efforts going forward if they proceed with 30X30.

“There should always be a little bit of a concern when the federal government says, ‘We're coming and we're here to help,’” said Rep. Newhouse. “We're concerned that they're looking at ways that they can essentially lock up and throw away the key to many of the lands in the western United States.” 

“In fact, we already have more than 30% of the lands in the United States under some kind of conservation program,” he added. “It really does concern us when the federal government says, ‘Hey, we're going to come in and preserve 30% of the country.’ What does that mean? What does that mean to private property rights? What does that mean to the work that's already being done?”

What True Conservation Solutions Actually Look Like

“Pursuing a preservationist approach relying upon a subjective “conservation status” fails to reassure Westerners and rural communities that this initiative isn’t a guise to restrict use or access on public land,” the Western Conservation Principles report said of “America the Beautiful.”

Rather, the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses support a “holistic approach” to conservation—not inaction or “preservation”—on public lands.


Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), a leading conservative conservationist, is confident their alternative will gain traction. 

“Conservation is part of our Montana way of life—we know how to be good stewards of our lands,” Daines said in a press release. “I believe it’s a conservative principle to conserve. That’s why I’m pushing a new ‘Western Conservation Principles’ initiative that uses science-based, time-tested, locally-driven practices to bring about meaningful conservation outcomes, unlike President Biden’s vague 30x30 initiative.” 

“We absolutely are concerned that's the direction the federal government wants to go: limit access, limit activity, limit working lands,” Rep. Newhouse continued.  “You can conserve and also preserve working lands. They're not mutually exclusive; they can go hand-in-hand.”

Their top priorities include proactive forest management, combating invasive species, Superfund site cleanups, increased visitation to America’s public lands, species recovery, among others listed. The lawmakers also recommend the Biden administration leverage existing private-public partnerships, reform environmental review, and stop “sue and settle” litigation, for example.


Conservation is wise use of natural resources, while preservation calls for no use. 


The preservationist Left deliberately conflates the two environmental strains with one another. As a result, confusion abounds and misinformation prevails. 

What can conservatives and those skeptical of the Biden administration’s 30X30 plan do? Champion the policies and recommendations espoused by the Western Conservation Principles plan and their Congressional backers. 

Interested readers can go here to read the 30x30 alternative.

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