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Serving: West

Western lawmakers take aim at Biden’s 30x30 plan

Tim Hearden WFP-tim-hearden-memorial-day-7.jpg
U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., attends a Memorial Day observation in Yreka, Calif., in 2020.
California’s LaMalfa, Colorado’s Boebert, others call ‘America the Beautiful’ initiative a land grab.

Nearly two dozen Western members of Congress have signed on to a bill that would block President Joe Biden’s “30 by 30” plan, which will seek to lock up at least 30% of all lands and waters in the country by 2030.

U.S. Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and 21 other Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced the 30 by 30 Termination Act, which would nullify Section 216 of Executive Order 14008 containiing the plan and bars any federal money from being spent on it.

Biden’s so-called “America the Beautiful” plan contains eight guiding principles, including a pursuit of collaborative approaches; a commitment to supporting voluntary conservation efforts by farmers and ranchers; and honoring private property rights.

But the lawmakers contend the plan would place another 681 million acres of land and water under government control while elevating federal lands to a “more extreme” status that prevents their use.

Federal agencies already manage 640 million acres, much of it in the West, and more than 760 acres of federal waters are already locked up under the Antiquities Act, the lawmakers argue.

Related: Ag groups encouraged by agriculture’s role in 30x30 plan

“The federal government already possesses millions of acres that it cannot manage well,” said LaMalfa, a rice farmer from Richvale, Calif. “We have witnessed millions of acres of forest lands burned in recent years, wild horse populations that grow exponentially and are in peril, and a backlog of national park maintenance and closure.

“Why the government would seek to add hundreds of millions of acres to its holdings is senseless,” he said. “Before locking up more land and water in perpetuity without congressional approval, we should implement the reforms necessary to proper;y manage the federal government’s current possessions, leading to countless benefits including reduced wildfire risk, better utilization of natural resources to supply our renewable energy demand, and getting more water to our farmers, ranchers and urban users soon to be under rationing.”

Mixed reactions from ag

Biden’s proposal – which officials have called a philosophical document – has received mixed reactions from farm groups. American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall said the program lacks specifics.

“AFBF appreciates that the report acknowledges concerns we have raised and recognizes the oversized contribution of farmers and ranchers to conservation while feeding the world,” Duvall said. “That recognition must carry through implementation.”

Related: Biden administration offers insight into 30x30 plan

National Farmers Union president Rob Larew said it is essential that agriculture is incorporated into larger conservation efforts given that farmers and ranchers steward at least 44% of the nation’s land mass.

But Boebert, the Republican bill’s main sponsor, calls Biden’s plan a “radical pander to Green New Deal activists” with a “fake name,” adding the administration has already shown a willingness to ignore the input of opposing counties when adding new federal land to the rolls.

“Locking up 30% of all our land and water within the next decade is a dream killer for future generations and local economies and will also prevent Americans from utilizing their public lands and enjoying the outdoors,” Boebert said. “In the West, we are all to familiar with government land grabs and we can see this one coming from a mile away.”

The Republicans’ bill would require there to be no net loss of multiple-use activities in states unless such action has been authorized by federal statute. It also guarantees no net loss of non-federal lands in states and counties that already consist of more than 15% federal lands.

Other cosponsors include Arizona’s Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs; Colorado’s Ken Buck; Texas’ Pat Fallon, Chip Roy, Ronny Jackson, Randy Weber and Brian Babin; Mississippi’s Michael Guest; North Carolina’s Dan Bishop and Ted Budd; Georgia’s Austin Scott; Nebraska’s Adrian Smith and Don Bacon; Arkansas’ Rick Crawford; Pennsylvania’s Scott Perry; Minnesota’s Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber; Virginia’s Bob Good; and Wisconsin’s Tom Tiffany.

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