Skip to main content

The 30x30 Initiative - Part III: California’s Role in 30x30

| Rose Winn, Cal4wheel Natural Resources Consultant | Access Issues

In the June 2023 edition of InGear, I shared an overview of the 30x30 initiative, and in the August 2023 edition, I shared more context to the 30x30 implementation strategy through public land management planning as demonstrated in the examples like the US Forest Service’s creation of a PCT Corridor, and the BLM’s Proposed Rule for Conservation & Landscape Health. There is still much to unpack in discussion of this topic as it is both broad-reaching and complex. In this article, we’ll look at California’s efforts to advance the 30x30 initiative within state policy, funding, and legislation.

To briefly recap the overview of 30x30 and set the stage for Part III 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, environmental 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. 

In California, we face a unique added layer to the 30x30 puzzle given that the governor and many of our state legislators have asserted a commitment to achieve the 30x30 initiative within California – this is above and beyond the scope of the biden administration’s 30x30 goal for the collective 50 states in the USA. A major development for the California 30x30 initiative took place just a few weeks ago… on October 7, Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 337. SB 337 codifies into law Newsom’s vision to protect 30 percent of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030. Proponents of the bill state that government-led and government-enforced compliance with 30x30 is critical to addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis. SB 337 ensures the 30x30 goal will last beyond the current Newsom administration. The 30x30 goal was originally part of Executive Order N-82-20 issued by Newsom in 2020. Since the 30x30 deadline will extend past Newsom’s term, supporters felt it was necessary to establish the goal in statute to ensure it remains a commitment for future CA governors through (and beyond) 2030. 

The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) is a core driver in implementation of the state 30x30 plan. CNRA estimates California must protect 6 million acres of land and an additional 500,000 acres of coastal waters by 2030 to achieve its 30x30 goals. They believe that so far, California has conserved 24.4% of its lands to meet this goal, according to CNRA's May progress report. The state must conserve an estimated 750,000 acres of land per year between now and 2030 to meet its goal. The map shown here, depicts the CNRA’s current calculation of conserved land and water in CA. The land shown in orange comprises 631,000 acres that were added in 2023. CNRA’s 30x30 target counts land and coastal waters that are “durably protected and managed to sustain functional ecosystems, both intact and restored, and the diversity of life that they support.”

As you can see from the map, many areas within our state parks, national parks, national forests, and BLM lands are held within the 24.4% of “durably protected and managed” 30x30 lands. However, many other areas across our existing public lands are not counted towards the 30x30 goal. Semantics matter a great deal in public land access issues – so we must ask – what is “durable protection and management?” CNRA defines “durable” as permanent and unalterable. Therefore, public lands in which current management policy may allow uses that are considered incompatible with the 30x30 plan are not counted towards the 30x30 goal. Such uses include many of the activities that are encompassed within the multiple-use objective by which our public lands are managed, such as motorized recreation, timber production, logging and grazing for vegetation management, and mining.

Subsequently, changing public land management policy forms a core set of strategies within the 30x30 initiative. At the national / federal level, we are seeing this unfold within attempts to achieve massive shifts in management protocol such as BLM’s Proposed Rule for Conservation & Landscape Health, which if approved, would authorize the sale of BLM public land to private parties in the form of conservation leases. Those conservation leases will allow the lease holder to determine which uses are, and are not, permitted within the borders of their leased land. In this scenario, suppose a parcel of BLM land in Jawbone Canyon were leased out, and the lease holder decided that OHV use was not compatible with their conservation goals, that lease holder could remove permission for OHV use within the border of their leased parcel, creating a scenario in which OHV use could be closed or fragmented in Jawbone Canyon.

At the state level in California, the goal to shift public land management to facilitate “durable protection and management” is stated explicitly within the structure of the 30x30 plan. The CNRA’s Pathways to Achieve 30x30 document lays out the plan for near- and long-term goals. Those goals include compelling the US Forest Service, National Park Service, CA State Parks, BLM, Fish & Wildlife Service, and CA Department of Fish & Wildlife to:

  • Mobilize a state-federal interagency team to identify and secure emerging federal funding for new conservation acquisitions, including the recently approved federal infrastructure bill and expansion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
  • Prioritize additional lands for acquisition that provide habitats that are underrepresented in currently conserved areas, sequester carbon, and buffer climate impacts.
  • Prioritize acquisition of unprotected lands adjacent to or surrounded by currently established public lands (for example, lands owned in checkerboard format).
  • Monitor state and federal legislation to support, where appropriate, enhanced conservation on public lands, including new designations and expansion of wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national monuments.
  • Partner with federal agencies to explore where on public lands enhanced environmental conservation is beneficial and appropriate, and constructively engage in federal land management planning to identify and implement appropriate improvements.

The Pathways to Achieve 30x30 emphasizes partnership with government agencies, as well as a broad range of private and public organizations to implement 30x30 through a conglomeration of channels. As noted previously, the US Forest Service’s partnership with the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) to create the PCT Corridor is another example of how the 30x30 plan is being rolled out. The PCTA stated explicitly in a 2021 article that the PCT Corridor is directly tied to implementation of the 30x30 initiative.

A tricky component of the language within the California 30x30 plan relates to public access to outdoor recreation. The CNRA “Outdoors for All” initiative is an important embedded component of the broader 30x30 plan. Outdoors for All states that “We believe in the right of all Californians to have access to recreational opportunities, and enjoy the cultural, historic, and natural resources found across the state.” However, when you review the details of the Outdoors for All Draft Strategy, it is evident that human-powered public access forms the full scope of vision for human interaction in lands and waters within the 30x30 initiative. Motorized recreation such as OHV is not included as a form of public access within the conservation goals of 30x30.

As we reflect on the scale of impact that the 30x30 initiative may have on our efforts to preserve public access to public lands for OHV recreation and all other multiple uses, it is important to keep in mind that 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: at the federal / national level, 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.” Similarly, there is no constitutional authority for the California state governor to place 30 percent of all land and water in California into conserved status. SB 337 attempts to create a legally binding premise of authority for government-led and government-enforced conservation measures. However, local (county and city) governments, and the citizens of California (you and I), have the right and responsibility to ultimately determine whether and how the 30x30 plan is allowed to become reality.

We must continue pushing back on each piece of attempted implementation of the 30x30 initiative. As the 30x30 plan has unfolded in recent years, it has become evident that conservation of 30 percent of land and waters is just the beginning of the vision. Groundwork is already laid to implement at 50x50 plan to follow 30x30. The current 30x30 plan already states explicitly that at minimum 30 percent, with up to 70 percent, durable conservation of land and water must ultimately be achieved. Some actions you may consider to join efforts to push back on roll out of the 30x30 initiative include increasing your knowledge about 30x30, and actively engaging in public land access advocacy. The Heritage Foundation illuminates the truth about the massive lack of real science and data to support the 30x30 agenda. American Stewards of Liberty provides a ton of information on 30x30 that is easy to access in articles and videos. We welcome you to join the Cal4Wheel Access & Stewardship Committee – we meet monthly to discuss current issues impacting OHV recreation on public lands, and take action to preserve public land access through involvement in advocacy and public land management planning.

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.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.