Biden Administration

Will Biden's '30 by 30′ Conservation Plan Protect Both Property Rights and Wild Landscapes?

"Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest," wrote naturalist Aldo Leopold.


Yesterday the Biden administration released a report, "Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful," that outlines the ambitious goal of "conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030." The administration's "30 by 30" proposal is consonant with ongoing negotiations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a multilateral treaty which the U.S. has signed but not ratified. The treaty aims to preserve sites of particular importance for biodiversity through the implementation of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. These measures would help cover at least 30 percent of land and sea areas, with at least 10 percent under strict protection.

In March, 60 Republican members of the Senate and the House of Representatives sent a letter to the White House expressing their concern that "the 30 by 30 initiative will be used as a method to undermine private property rights, circumvent the multiple-use mandate, and lock up more land."

In his testimony during a U.S. House Natural Resources Committee forum, Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) CEO Brian Yablonski observed that President Joe Biden's earlier 30 by 30 executive order "references conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters, not protecting or preserving. The word conserve implies multiple and sustainable uses, not locking up land. This means managed and working lands should count."

The 30 by 30 report does, at least rhetorically, endorse this view. "Notably, the President's challenge specifically emphasizes the notion of 'conservation' of resources (rather than the related but different concept of 'protection' or 'preservation') recognizing that many uses of our lands and waters, including of working lands, can be consistent with the long-term health and sustainability of natural systems," states the report. "Efforts to conserve and restore America's lands and waters must respect the rights of private property owners." The report further observes that the administration's 30 percent conservation and restoration goal will be advanced by "providing incentives for voluntary conservation practices," as this "rewards ranchers and farmers for being good stewards of working lands, waters, and wildlife habitat." So far so good.

Yablonski points out that the 30 by 30 goal is quite ambitious since "according to the U.S. Geological Survey, only 12 percent of the land in the United States qualifies as 'protected,' including wilderness areas, national parks and monuments, state parks, and some private lands under conservation easements. To achieve an additional 18 percent, we would need to conserve an extra 440 million acres—an area more than four times the size of California—in the next nine years." Since 12 percent of U.S. land is already "protected," this would more than meet the CBD's 10 percent threshold for strict protection. With respect to the seas, the Biden administration report notes that the country "has already established marine protected areas in approximately one quarter of U.S. waters."

Various conservation groups offered their support for the administration's 30 by 30 vision. "The plan released today recognizes the current pace of conservation is not enough, and that we need to engage tribes, all stakeholders and communities to achieve a 30 percent conservation goal that will bring effective, lasting and equitable results," said Nature Conservancy Chief External Affairs Officer Lynn Scarlett* in a statement. "Protected areas and federal designations are important, but integrating other management authorities and working waters, lands and oceans is also necessary to achieving this goal."

In response to the release of the 30 by 30 report, the conservative environmentalist group ConservAmerica stated, "We are cautiously optimistic about the proposal and its focus on good stewardship and land management. We believe that Biden's conservation goals cannot be achieved without working with private landowners, and, so far, the President appears to agree with us. Many of the principles we recommend in our public comments are reflected in the report, including respect for private property rights, the value of stewardship by farmers and ranchers on the lands they work, and flexibility in what constitutes conservation so that the priority is on outcomes rather than process."

To help the Biden administration get started, here are some ideas that would protect both property rights as well as landscapes and wildlife. First, let's eliminate all agricultural subsidies since they incentivize farmers to plow down millions of acres of land in order to qualify for them. Biofuel subsidies are especially pernicious since they encourage overproduction and do essentially nothing to forestall man-made climate change. Recognizing that congressional political realities may make the abolition of those subsidies unlikely, why not repurpose them to support and expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) conservation reserve program?

Another useful step toward conserving our coastlines from overdevelopment would be to eliminate federal flood insurance. Additionally, our federal forests are overgrown fire traps, so funding could be targeted toward thinning them. The 30 by 30 report proposes to use "stakeholder-driven processes for marine fisheries management." What has actually worked well to conserve fisheries is privatization. The Biden administration could propose amending the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to assign property rights to U.S. fisheries that are still being regulated by fishery management councils.

As the great naturalist Aldo Leopold once wrote, "Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest." Here's hoping that the Biden administration will keep this firmly in mind as it seeks to pursue its 30 by 30 plan.

*Disclosure: Scarlett is a former president of Reason Foundation. 

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  1. I’ve got a better idea. Get rid of the Bureau of Land Management, give federal lands to the states they occupy, and let them do what they want. And stop complying with unratified treaties.

    1. That’s a terrible idea. Those lands should stay public lands. The states would just sell off that land.

      1. Well most of the land is already being used for some productive purpose already, like ranching. Selling off the land just makes it more obvious what the land is actually being used for and puts the responsibility on the actual land user to take care of the land.

        1. I am more concerned about private land owners keeping out the public from using the land for recreation purposes.

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          2. On the 30% of “conserved” land, will my RIGHTS to be PROTECTED from unsupervised use of DEADLY medical instruments of mass death and destruction… Like the dreaded cheap-plastic “lung flute”… Will my protection from such deadly instrument be conserved? Or will hoodlums and vandals be allowed, willy-nilly, to sell me cheap plastic (UNPRESCRIBED!) flutes from hidden inside pockets in the black trench coats?!?!?! WHO WILL PROTECT ME (from cheap plastic flutes & other hazards to the innocents) on these “conserved” lands, is what I want to know!!!

            To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see … This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

            1. If you’re not willing to post your core principles then why would a judge grant you that right?

              1. Grant me what right? To micro-manage others? That’s pure power-pig hogwash! “Sarc” label applies to the cheap plastic flute!

                “Core principles” listed here! Respect the free-will rights of others, simply because it pisses YOU off, when other boss YOU around, for no good reasons, other than THEM assuming their own moral superiority! Don’t like it when done to you? Then don’t do it to others! Very simple!

                1. No, no, no – you must post your core principles *here*.

                  Otherwise why would a judge grant you any privileges.

                  1. It’s so nice having his inane threadshitting screened out.

          3. Quite a bit of federal protected wilderness areas are largely closed to the public even for recreational purposes.

            1. Quite a bit of federal protected wilderness areas are largely closed to the public even for recreational purposes.
              Including the Congress and most of D.C.

              1. Which that really is a very fertile hunting ground

          4. Well, that’s their choice. Besides if a piece of land is attractive enough for recreation, then the land owner can monetize that.

            1. Or we can just keep the land public. I don’t see why libertarians have to be opposed to public land.

              1. See “tragedy of the commons”. When everyone owns it, no one owns it! And it goes to Hell in a handbasket! Simply because NO ONE has an interest in taking good care of it, in the long run!


                1. This is just bullshit. The ‘commons’ is not about an ownership structure. It is about open unpriced access to it. But it is deliberately lied about in order to abdicate responsibility in managing it. Which leads to – ‘Oh gosh we suck at this. Let’s privatize it. And since we suck at managing the resource, it gives us the opportunity to suck at privatizing the resource. But hey at least with that we only get ripped off once and then we can forget about someone else figuring out how it can get ripped off every fucking day.

                  1. “…It is about open unpriced access to it…”

                    Which is a direct result of ‘ownership structure’, regardless of any arm waving you manage.

              2. Because we see the government mismanagement due to perverse incentives government managers have.

              3. yeah, also making stuff like national parks privatized or even just monetized is a risky political move. When yellowstone park started to make people pay $35 to go into the park to help with conservation efforts, a lot of nature go-ers were pissed.

              4. “…I don’t see why libertarians have to be opposed to public land…”

                Does anyone need further proof of chipper’s mental “abilities”? I think not.

          5. But you’re not worried about the state – which is actually doing that very thing?

            In addition to badly mismanaging recreational areas?

            How about private owners build recreational areas and have an incentive to maintain those areas for recreation . . . because it makes money.

            While the government has an incentive to put so many regulations in place that you can’t use a lot of recreational sites, other sites simply don’t get money budgeted for maintenance, and others are just flat out closed down because its easier to bow to the ‘conservationist’.

            You do this all the time – you pit a ‘best case scenario’ government action against a ‘worst case scenario’ private action – totally ignoring what the government is really doing.

            Private owners can, literally, be doing no worse of a job than the government is *right now*.

          6. “I am more concerned about private land owners keeping out the public from using the land for recreation purposes.”

            Steaming piles of lefty shit never heard of, oh Disneyland.

      2. if you’re worried about it – then get together with some people and buy those lands.

        If the highest use of the land is . . . not to use it – then buy it and let it lie fallow.

        Don’t use guns to force other people to do what you want done.

      3. Keep in mind that *85* of Nevada is federal land. 85%.

        Arizona is something like 50%.

        We’re not talking about little isolated spots here and there like it is in the eastern half of the country. Out here the Federal government owns the majority of the land.

      4. “…The states would just sell off that land.”

        To steaming piles of lefty shit like this steaming pile of lefty shit, private ownership of land is inherently bad,right, steaming pile of lefty shit?

    2. Get rid of the Bureau of Land Management

      At least change its name to reduce acronym overload.

      1. Does the Bureau of Land Management sell t-shirts?

      2. Bureau of Deeds and Soil Management?

        1. How about Administration of Soil Science, Horticultural Operators and Land Ecology Specialists?

    3. The federal government could just sell most of the land. That would take care of a big chunk of the debt right there.

      1. jeff the bureau of land management has police and snipers, that org isn’t going anywhere and neither is land locked up forever in the grubby hands of the feds. get real.

      2. “radical individualist”

        Sure. Sure.

        1. He’s a ‘radical socialist’ and a ‘radical child rape enthusiast’. He always supports the left, and has stated here that the US has no business restricting the entrance of known alien sexual predators, including child rapists.

    4. Everything with the initials blm is evil and retarded

      1. Everything serious anyway.

        1. BLM sandwiches = Bacon (kosher bacon that is), Lettuce, and Matzo would be ESPECIALLY appealing to the Jewish people among us!

          I have wondered… In a future era, of vat-grown, DNA-synthesis-driven food (obviously to include synth-meat), could bacon (etc.) be Kosher (Halal etc.)? Can we hang cloven hooves on the bottom of the vats, and some regurgitated cud-chewing AI-driven-mechanical appendages to said vats, and call it a day? Even if the DNA is pig DNA, monkey DNA, shrimp DNA… Or even HUMAN DNA, for Yahweh’s sake?!?!?! And STILL be religiously correct? Speaking of religiously correct… The all-important question here is… WHAT will Government Almighty say about these questions?!??!

    5. And stop complying with unratified treaties.

      You start complying, then stop, then start again and continue signing them until you’ve signed, but not ratified, so many conflicting treaties that nobody anywhere believes your signature means anything, right?

  2. Tear down the wind turbines first. They kill eagles.

    1. Frodo had it comming

  3. All good ideas. Federal flood insurance is an absolute abomination. Also, everyone should read Aldo Leopold. He is a legend.

  4. “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.”

    That land, you didn’t build that!

    1. Rewarding them by letting them keep their private property. For now.

  5. The word conserve implies multiple and sustainable uses, not locking up land.

    Is that so? Conserve: to keep in a safe or sound state
    especially : to avoid wasteful or destructive use of

    1. Sure. Avoiding destructive use of something does not necessarily mean not using the thing at all.

    2. In the way it’s used when talking about conserving land or resources, yes. Hunters tend to be good conservationists, but certainly aren’t trying to leave the land in some pristine state of nature (whatever that is).

      1. Yep, the alternative would be preservation (not using the land at all)

        Of course in the modern vocabulary where words can mean whatever you want whenever you want, who knows what “conservation” can mean

      2. Except hunters ‘conserve’ land by carefully removing all uses except a limited amount of hunting.

        They’re ‘conserving’ by not using.

        In every other sphere, ‘conserving’ means ‘using less of’.

  6. Getting rid of farm subsidies is a great idea. Unfortunately it is unlikely to happen in the near future.

    1. Especially if you continue to conflate ‘farm subsidies’ with the much larger and just as anti-conservationist notion of ‘feeding the poor’.

  7. will Biden’s plan…nope not his plan, and no it will never work.

    1. I doubt Biden could even an a trip to the bathroom on his own. Unless it meant shitting his diapers.

  8. When was the last time we had a guy with so many plans?

    1. A Man A Plan Pandemonium.

      1. Can I get a Pandemonium hat?

  9. Once again the urban Progressive elite are showing us how they see the world – in this case, there is useful city land and also nice vacation sites. That someone might be making a living outside city limits in inconceivable.
    Flyover land is only good for Sierra Club hikes and documentaries.

    1. Yeah, the farm subsidy portion of the article gets pretty absurd (from their own cite):

      That amount is substantial: according to the Environmental Working Group’s compilation of Department of Agriculture data, for example, the federal government has provided approximately $424.4 billion in current‐​dollar subsidies—crop insurance, commodity payments, conservation payments, and disaster payments—to U.S. farms since 1995 (the 2020 data are incomplete)

      First, note that that’s ~$28B a year.

      Second, for about the last 10 of those years, crop insurance has exceeded commodity payments or what would conventionally be regarded as subsidies, or paying farmers simply to maintain plowed fields or grow crops for no other reason than to let them rot in the field. Crop insurance only applies to planted and lost crops. You can’t just plow under a forest and claim crop insurance.

      Third, note that Cato themselves considers ‘conservation payments’ a farm subsidy.

      Lastly, and most importantly, it ignores the comparatively larger issue of food subsidies. No farmer is planting a field hoping they can claim their losses in crop insurance, they’re planting their fields in hope of selling the crop. And the price of that crop is increased by food subsidies.

      If you want more privately held conservation areas, you’re going to have to stop subsidizing or otherwise drive down the price/value/amount of food required.

  10. I would bet a lot of money the “incentive” is going to be avoiding enormous fines by complying with all the new, ridiculously restrictive rules made by unaccointable executive agencies.

  11. “30 by 30” (progressivism) turns into “100 by 50” (full socialism), followed most likely by “0 by 70” (anarchy).

  12. The word conserve implies multiple and sustainable uses, not locking up land. This means managed and working lands should count.”

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean”

    When I conserve water – I’m using less of it.

    When I conserve energy – I’m using less of it.

    In what fucking world does ‘conserving’ mean ‘still using all of it’?

    1. Well, in more fairness, “using” it by back-packing through it to leave no more than footprints and photos taken, is a LOT different that strip-mining it, clear-cutting it, or covering it in so many solar collectors, that few plants can grow there any more…

      1. So, then, ‘conserving’ means ‘not using’.

      2. Also, all those bad things you listed?

        Yeah, they’re done by government to generate revenue from those public lands.

        So we’re back to private ownership not being any worse than government ownership.

        1. “public lands” — The surest path to communism in two words.

      3. lmao… “few plants”?
        Is usually the end-result of un-irrigated, non-mined, un-cut areas.

        Let’s all pray for lawn irrigation instead-of actually DOING something to water the lawn :).

  13. Remember where the US Constitution gave the federal authority to be “protecting wildlife”?

    Ya; me neither… Tell the Nazi’s to get the 2/3rds vote to ratify or F-OFF!

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