President Biden plans to raise the percentage of land “protected” in the United States from about 12 percent to 30 percent over the next nine years. That would mean protecting an additional area more than four times the size of California. From the White House fact sheet:
- “The order commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, States, Territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation.”
Does “protection” mean a takeover of more private land? No, it doesn’t have, to says Brian Yablonski of PERC (the Property and Environment Research Center). He points out that large stretches of land are already being protected privately—and they should be recognized as such. Two examples are: American Prairie Reserve and the Matador Ranch. Those efforts, which involve private protection as well as protection of public land should be recognized. In addition:
- “One well-established way to cement conservation on priv ate lands is through easements, though this approach requires landowners to forego development forever in exchange for valuable tax benefits.”
- “Introducing shorter-term “habitat leases” might entice more ranchers and farmers to participate, providing protections for ten to 30 years in exchange for lesser remuneration than easements. Private habitat leases could appeal to businesses, too, if they could underwrite farming and ranching conservation as an offset for their own environmental impacts.”
- “Finally, simple recognition could go a long way. Some sort of low-cost “conservation certification” might capture the value of overlooked stewardship already occurring on private land. For instance, the National Audubon Society offers market-based incentives for grassland stewardship through special labeling of beef products from Audubon-certified farms and ranches. Such tools could—and should—be considered a key part of 30 by 30.”
Image of the American Prairie Reserve by Gib Myers.