DENVER -- In an important step forward for America’s public lands and waters, the Department of Interior published a report Thursday setting out the process to protect 30 percent of U.S. lands, waters and oceans by 2030. This report follows the national commitment set out by President Joe Biden in January with his Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.
This effort comes as America is losing two football fields worth of land to development every minute. In the face of biodiversity loss and climate change, setting aside natural areas for conservation can safeguard habitat for threatened species as well as protect sources of clean water for Americans.
In addition, scientists say only 13 percent of the global ocean can be classified as wilderness. From oil spills to warming waters, our seas are facing existential threats. Ocean habitats, such as the Florida Reef, are suffering. Long-standing marine protected areas can help restore vulnerable ecosystems, safeguard endangered species, and build resilience to climate impacts and natural disasters.
The report lays out several principles, including a focus on conserving “America’s lands and waters for the benefit of all people” and using “science as a guide.” As part of the plan, the Department of Interior will also create an “American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas” to keep track of protected areas. Early recommendations include enhancing the National Wildlife Refuge System, establishing new marine sanctuaries and expanding outdoor recreation opportunities.
Wendy Wendlandt, president of Environment America, issued the following statement:
“By laying out the principles necessary to safeguard more nature, President Biden and Secretary Haaland are ensuring that future generations can appreciate the soaring mountains, rushing rivers and stunning beaches that make this country so special. From Florida’s manatees to my own California desert tortoises, habitat loss threatens iconic species and the ecosystems they depend on. And from orcas off the Washington coast to right whales in the Atlantic, our marine species are at risk. That’s why Americans from coast to coast support conservation, and why we’re looking forward to working with the administration to do what it takes to preserve our most amazing and important landscapes for centuries to come.”