Ag has mixed reactions to Biden-Harris administration's 'America the Beautiful' initiative

The Biden-Harris Administration outlines a decade-long, locally-led and voluntary nationwide effort to restore and conserve the country’s lands, waters and wildlife.

CRP field.jpg
The Biden-Harris Administration outlines a decade-long, locally-led and voluntary nationwide effort to restore and conserve the country’s lands, waters and wildlife. (Photo by North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

The Biden-Harris administration on Thursday released its plan to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The plan received a mixed reaction from agriculture groups.

The report outlined a locally-led and voluntary nationwide system. It calls for the conservation and restoration of public, private, and Tribal lands and waters and indicates that doing so would create jobs, strengthen the economy, tackle the climate crises and expand access to the outdoors, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall indicated in a statement released Thursday morning that his organization wants to know more specifics about the plan.

“AFBF appreciates that the report acknowledges concerns we have raised and recognizes the oversized contributions of farmers and ranchers to conservation while feeding the world. That recognition must carry through implementation," his statement said. "The report is a philosophical document that emphasizes important principles such as incentive-based voluntary conservation, protecting personal and property rights and continued ranching on public lands, but it lacks specifics. I had several positive conversations with Secretary Vilsack about 30x30 and we will work with him and his colleagues to ensure the details live up to promises made to protect American agriculture.”

National Farmers Union president Rob Larew in a statement said his organization is “glad to have clarity on the matter and look forward to continued collaboration with the administration to ensure these principles are followed.”


“When the administration first announced its plans to conserve 30% of the nation’s land, however, we had a lot of questions about what that might mean for agriculture. After sharing those concerns with the administration, we are heartened that our feedback was taken seriously and incorporated into the final principles," he said. "Today’s report understands the valuable work that family farmers are already doing to improve soil , water, and air quality and commits to advancing that work in the future.

The report, submitted to the National Climate Task Force, was developed by the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“The President’s challenge is a call to action to support locally-led conservation and restoration efforts of all kinds and all over America, wherever communities wish to safeguard the lands and waters they know and love,” said the report, attributed to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack , Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. “Doing so will not only protect our lands and waters but also boost our economy and support jobs nationwide.”

Based on feedback gathered in the Administration’s first 100 days, the report identified six priority areas for the administration’s early focus, investments, and collaboration:

  • Creating more parks and safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities.

  • Supporting Tribally led conservation and restoration priorities.

  • Expanding collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors.

  • Increasing access for outdoor recreation.

  • Incentivizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, ranchers, farmers, and forest owners.

  • Creating jobs by investing in restoration and resilience projects and initiatives, including the Civilian Climate Corps.

The report calls for the establishment of an interagency working group, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and NOAA in partnership with other land and ocean management agencies to measure and track progress. The working group will develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, a tool that will better reflect the voluntary contributions of farmers, ranchers, forest owners and private landowners; the contributions of fishery management councils; and other existing conservation designations on lands and waters across federal, state, local, Tribal, and private lands and waters across the nation, the USDA noted in a release.
President Joe Biden on Jan. 27 included the plan in Executive Order 14008. The agencies developed the recommendations in the report after hearing from Tribal leaders, governors and their staff, Members of Congress and their staff, county officials, state elected officials, state fish and wildlife agencies, leaders on equity and justice in conservation policy, environmental advocacy organizations, hunting and fishing organizations, regional fisheries management councils, farming and ranching organizations, trade associations, forestry representatives, outdoor recreation businesses and users, the seafood industry, and others.

The report recommends additional dialogue with key partners — including states and Tribes — to inform early collaborative conservation efforts and the development of the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas.

“This report is only the starting point on the path to fulfilling the conservation vision that President Biden has outlined,” the report said. “Where this path leads over the next decade will be determined not by our agencies, but by the ideas and leadership of local communities. It is our job to listen, learn, and provide support along the way to help strengthen economies and pass on healthy lands, waters, and wildlife to the generations to come.”

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