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Legislative and Regulatory Update

Governors push back on Biden’s public lands acquisition plan
Fourteen governors signed a joint letter to President Biden in opposition to his directive to develop a plan to conserve 30 percent of the land and waters in the United States by 2030.

The letter states:
The undersigned are not aware of any constitutional or statutory authority for the President, the US Department of the Interior, the US Department of Agriculture, or any other federal agency to set aside and permanently conserve 30 percent of all land and water in the United States, and no authority is referenced in Executive Order 14008.

While the Order does not identify which lands may be targeted by the program, the Department of Interior released a fact sheet on the same day finding that only 12 percent of America’s lands are currently “conserved,” the level of restriction, it appears, your Administration is seeking under the new policy. Included in the figure are Wilderness lands, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, State Parks, National Monuments, and private lands with permanent conservation easements.

Some of us govern western states with massive amounts of lands in the categories mentioned above or other federal designations that should be considered as “conserved.” We are deeply concerned about any effort to enlarge the federal estate or further restrict the use of public lands in our states.

And even for those of us leading states without swaths of federal land, we oppose any increase in land use restrictions on lands under our state jurisdiction. Assuming there is some authority which would allow the program, obtaining the 30 percent goal from state or private lands would require your Administration to condemn or otherwise severely limit the current productive uses of such lands, infringing on the private property rights of our citizens and significantly harming our economies.

In addition to declaring his intent to conserve 30 percent of US land and water, President Biden has left individual states out of the process thus far.

President Biden’s order “directs the Department of Interior to submit a report to the National Climate Task Force within 90 days, ‘recommending steps that the United States should take, working with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders, to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.’”

“To date, we have not been adequately consulted on the 30 x 30 program. Rather, instead of coordinating with us as the Order directs, on February 11, 2021, the Department of Interior rescinded Secretarial Order 3388, revoking the policy requiring consent from states and their local governments for federal land acquisitions under the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

The governors ask how the current administration plans to ensure the public maintains access for recreational activities and if “livestock grazing, mining and energy development” will be allowed.

The letter was signed by the governors of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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