Conservationists see 2022 as critical year for initiative to protect 30% of Earth’s oceans, land

FILE - In this June 22, 2016, file photo, the "House on Fire" ruins are shown in Mule Canyon, near Blanding, Utah. President Joe Biden expanded sprawling national monuments in Utah, the governor said Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. President Donald Trump's administration in 2017 significantly downsized Bears Ears National Monuments and Grand Staircase-Escalante in southern Utah | Associated Press file photo/ by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Conservationists say significant progress was made in 2021 toward the goals of the 30×30 Initiative, to have 30% of the world’s land and oceans protected by the end of this decade.

In this May 2017 file photo, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Declaring “this is a time for big dreams,” Biden on Thursday, June 1, 2017, launched a political action committee that’s stoking fresh speculation he may seek the presidency in 2020, May 24, 2017 | Associated Press photo by Steven Senne, St. George News

The Biden Administration embraced the plan and issued a first-year progress report this week, outlining its accomplishments over the past 12 months.

Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, said while the president was able to move forward on goals set for Utah and other Western states, much of the year was spent just catching up.

“A lot of 2021 was about reversing the damage of the Trump years,” Weiss pointed out. “Things like restoring Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. Now that those things have happened, the question is: what will President Biden do to create the conservation legacy of his own?”

The report recaps progress on Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, adopting the goals of 30×30 to protect and restore nature, increase outdoors access and engage tribal nations. It outlines future actions to preserve the economic and environmental value of public lands in the face of climate change.

Weiss noted state and local leaders are urging Biden to move on his own under the Antiquities Act to preserve endangered areas without waiting on Congress.

File photo of the Calf Creek Recreation area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, June 24, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

“Places like Kastner Range in Texas, Chumash Heritage off the California coast, Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada,” Weiss outlined. “There are a number of these proposals where local leaders are calling on the president to use his authority to protect these areas for future generations.”

Weiss added despite sporadic opposition to the plan, the vast majority of citizens see the importance of preserving high-value public lands and waters in Utah and other Western states.

“Even in Utah, there’s widespread support for restoring Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante because folks know that’s what economies are built on in much of the rural West,” Weiss contended.

Biden’s goals include developing locally-led conservation efforts, equitable and inclusive standards for conservation, sovereignty of tribal and indigenous communities, private land conservation and actions guided by science.

Written by MARK RICHARDSON, producer for Utah News Connection.

Copyright Utah News Connection, all rights reserved.

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