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The 30x30 Initiative - Part II: The PCT Corridor & BLM Proposed Rule on Conservation & Landscape Health

| Rose Winn, Cal4wheel Natural Resources Consultant | Access Issues

In the June 2023 edition of In Gear, I shared an overview of the 30x30 initiative. There is much to unpack in discussion of this topic as it is both broad-reaching and complex. In this article, we’ll look at a few elements of the 30x30 puzzle in greater detail. 

To briefly recap the overview of 30x30 and set the stage for Part II of our discussion… 30x30 is a government-backed initiative that aims to dramatically increase the volume of federally-owned, federally-administrated lands across America by shifting public and private lands into the hands of government entities (or facade entities that serve the government’s agenda like NGOs, globalist corporations, political activist organizations, etc.). 30x30 was formally incorporated into federal funding and agency planning through biden’s Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” The goal of 30x30 is to permanently protect 30 percent of the USA’s land and oceans in their natural state by 2030. Implementation of 30x30 is being accomplished piece by piece through a broad range of initiatives including climate change policy, endangered species listings, wilderness and national monument designations, and purchase of “management authority” of private and public land through conservation easements.

 

Those who support 30x30 argue that climate impacts are human-caused, and permanently preserving 30 percent of America’s land and oceans is necessary to reverse climate change. However, real science and data do not justify these extreme policy measures. 30x30 is an unconstitutional policy shift, causing us to become a nation in which both private and public lands are fully controlled by the administrative state. It is critical to note: there is no constitutional or statutory authority for the President, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, or any other federal agency to set aside and preserve 30 percent of all land and water in the United States, and no such authority is referenced in EO14008, or in the biden administration’s 30x30 report entitled “America the Beautiful.”

In California, one of the crucial pieces of the puzzle in the effort to advance 30x30 is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Management Area, or PCT Corridor. If you’ve been following my reports on Cal4Wheel’s involvement in the planning process for the Sierra and Sequoia National Forest Revised Land Management Plans (Plans), you’ll recall that the Forest Service incorporated a PCT Corridor within these Plans – the corridor encompasses a 1-mile wide area across the full length of the PCT within each national forest. This is highly problematic given that a Corridor is a trail buffer zone, and, the National Trails System Act that provides for designation of the PCT does not allow buffer zones. We’ve been fighting Forest Service authorization of the PCT Corridor throughout the public comment and objection resolution process for the Plans, then through a campaign to secure Congressional oversight of the Plans, and now… through an effort to secure a Congressional hearing that would set the stage for resolution either through congress or litigation. 

This battle is of high importance given that the Forest Service has stated that they intend to carry forward expansion of the PCT Corridor through the revised land management planning process for all of the other national forests that host segments of the PCT. So, what does the PCT Corridor accomplish – how does it relate to 30x30? The land within the Corridor would be managed uniquely to achieve a wilderness experience and sense of solitude for hikers, ensure a protected viewshed (the appearance of wilderness when viewing the terrain that extends from the trail), and minimize or eliminate human modification of the landscape. The Pacific Crest Trail Association has been a primary driver to create the PCT Corridor – they stated explicitly in a 2021 article that the PCT Corridor is directly tied to implementation of the 30x30 initiative. For advocates of public land access like Cal4Wheel, it is clear that we must be relentless in efforts to have the PCT Corridor removed from the Sierra and Sequoia land management plans, and to prevent it from being implemented in other national forests in California.

Another crucial piece of the puzzle to implement 30x30 at both the national level and in California is the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Proposed Rule: Conservation and Landscape Health. The Rule would authorize the BLM to create and sell conservation leases on the 247 million acres of public land managed by the BLM across the USA. 15.3% of all land within California is managed by the BLM. This means that 15+ million acres of California’s public land would be up for grabs to be stripped away from public access. Through this lease program, the highest bidder would have the authority to ban any/all uses and public access to the leased acreage they are paying for. This could serve to lock up access to vast areas of public land through strategically placed leased parcels that serve as entry points to larger expanses of public land; if the lease holder chose to ban human access on that parcel, it would thereby eliminate human access to the unleased public land that is situated beyond the parcel itself.

This Rule is problematic on multiple levels and should be withdrawn. Major issues include:

  • The BLM does not have the authority to create this rule. 
  • It would likely raise revenue for the government, which is something the BLM does not have authority to do. 
  • The rule is unnecessary: the BLM is already required to comply with dozens of other laws and executive orders to prioritize conservation on public lands.  
  • It will implement Landscape Health Standards that will create confusion and chaos in the BLM permitting process for organized and casual recreational use of BLM lands. 
  • The rule could easily lead to foreign intervention in public land management by opening the opportunity to lease BLM land to both American and foreign entities.

Additionally, this rule expands the 30x30 agenda by requiring the BLM to take a “precautionary approach” when authorizing land uses that may impair “ecosystem resilience.” Given that the Proposed Rule is based largely on EO14008, we can conclude that nearly everything impairs “ecosystem resilience” and contributes to climate change. EO14008 laments that only land in its “natural state” meets the 30x30 requirements. Since this administration believes that ecosystem resilience is necessary to defeat climate change and only land in its natural state will meet the country’s climate goals, we can assume that the protection of the natural state means limited or no human use of multiple use lands.

As public land access advocates, we are concerned that this rule will be used to restrict or eliminate motorized recreation, dispersed camping, and other forms of outdoor recreation on public lands. It will provide a new way for environmentalist organizations to create de facto wilderness where they have previously failed to get Congress to make wilderness designations. This Rule has been hotly contested - over 216,000 comments were submitted in total. Strong support for the Rule emerged from extreme environmentalist organizations. However, there was also a strong demonstration of united opposition from organizations that advocate for public land access, and individuals among the OHV and outdoor recreation communities. I submitted comments on behalf of Cal4Wheel to oppose the Proposed Rule, and I know that many Cal4Wheel members submitted comments as well (many thanks to each of you!). 

In a future In Gear article, we’ll take a closer look at how Endangered Species Listings fold into the 30x30 initiative. In the meantime, we must continue pushing back on each piece of attempted implementation of the 30x30 puzzle. Some actions you may consider include increasing your knowledge about 30x30. American Stewards of Liberty provides a ton of information on 30x30 that is easy to access in articles and videos. The Heritage Foundation illuminates the truth about the massive lack of real science and data to support the 30x30 agenda. We welcome you to join the Cal4Wheel Access & Stewardship Committee – we meet monthly to discuss current issues impacting OHV recreation on public lands, and ways to get involved in efforts to preserve public land access.

If you have questions or would like to discuss 30x30 further, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am eager to help members get involved so that we can increase our impact to preserve access for OHV recreation throughout California’s public lands. 

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