By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming may not need to opt out of an environmental initiative proposed by President Joe Biden as neighboring state Montana has done, according to a public lands expert.
Karen Budd-Falen told Cowboy State Daily that because Biden issued an executive order for his “30×30” conservation initiative, the plan does not have the full force or effect of law, so there is really no way to opt in or out of the proposal.
“The biggest problem with 30×30 is nobody knows what the heck it is,” she said. “You can’t find anybody who can tell you what 30×30 is.”
Biden issued an executive order not long after taking office intended to tackle climate change. With this initiative, he established a national goal to conserve at least 30% of U.S. lands and freshwater and 30% of U.S. oceans areas by 2030.
The initiative is intended to reverse the negative impacts of climate change by protecting more natural areas and to increase access to nature for communities that lack it.
Last week, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced that the state declined to participate in the “30×30” initiative, saying the plan was “long on philosophy and short on detail.”
Gianforte’s administration pointed out last week that to achieve the 30% goal, another 440 million acres would need to be put into conservation, which is nearly five times the size of Montana.
Gov. Mark Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily last week that he had heard no mention of Gordon choosing to not participate in the initiative.
Regardless of whether the initiative can be enforced, Budd-Falen, who is well-versed in multiple land use, said the problem remains the fact that no one truly understands it, including the Biden adminsitration.
“Personally, I’m opposed to turning over any more lands to federal management,” she told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “I think Wyoming citizens do a very good job of managing our lands. I think the idea that we’re going to eliminate all use and not have these federal lands generating revenue is going to bankrupt the state.”
Former U.S. Bureau of Land Management acting Director William Perry Pendley told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that the federal government would just be locking up more land with the initiative.
“The way the federal lands have been managed under Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and now Joe Biden, they’ve been managed for a single purpose, rather than multiple use,” Pendley said. “Biden’s administration is talking about some federal designation over public and private land, and we can’t afford that right now. We’re already in a desperate situation because of Biden.”
The federal government currently owns about 48.2% of the land in Wyoming, a little more than 30 million acres.
Pendley said that Gianforte was doing the best thing for the people of Montana by choosing to not participate in the initiative.
“It’s just a Trojan horse for more land lockup,” he said.
Currently, the U.S. Geological Survey reports around 12% of U.S. land is in conservation status. To achieve 30% by 2030, another 440 million acres would need to be put into conservation, an area nearly five times the size of Montana.