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What is 30x30, and why does it matter to OHV recreation?

| Rose Winn, Cal4Wheel Natural Resources Consultant | Access Issues

If you’ve been involved with public land access advocacy in any way of the last several years, you’ve likely heard the term “30x30.” 30x30 has been a topic of high interest, yet it is also often characterized by confusion in regard to its definition and purpose. 30x30 is a government-backed initiative that aims to dramatically increase the volume of federally-owned, federally-administrated lands across America. Years ago, 30x30 was an obscure term that would pop up in dialogue about environmentalism and conservation. It was recently thrust to the forefront of government funding and planning by biden’s Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which he signed on January 27, 2021. EO14008 created an infrastructure of policy and funding that embedded the 30x30 agenda into the operational structure of every federal agency, including the Department of the Interior, US Department of Agriculture, Fish & Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and all others. EO14008 was rebranded as the “America the Beautiful” initiative in a follow up report released in May 2021. The general public is increasingly skeptical of the “climate crisis,” thus rebranding as “America the Beautiful” is intended to make it all look more appealing and demure.

Map showing simulated reserve and corridor system to protect biodiversity

30x30 is not unique to the USA; it is an international agenda advanced by radical environmental activists who seek to permanently protect 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans in their natural state by 2030. What is “natural state?” Essentially, this means “untouched by humans.” In the USA, one of the core drivers of public land closures and restrictions is the 30x30 initiative. However, implementation of 30x30 is not being rolled out as a singular, cohesive, plan. Rather, it has been implemented piece by piece through a broad range of initiatives that at the surface, may appear disconnected. When you take a broad view of the cumulative impact of each piece, however, the picture becomes clear. This map was originally presented to the United Nations in 2004, when the UN was evaluating global adoption of the 30x30 plan. The red areas form “core reserves” while the channels between form “corridors” to connect reserves. All red areas would be “natural state,” that is, “untouched by humans.” The yellow areas form buffer zones of highly restricted / limited human access. As you can see, there is a vast amount of land within the lower 48 states of the USA that would be encompassed by red and yellow zones if 30x30 were fully implemented. A majority of that land is in the West, including of course, massive areas within California.

So, what exactly is the piece by piece approach through which 30x30 is being implemented? Closures and restrictions to human access on public lands and waters are a core component. Federal acquisition of private lands, and seizure of “management” of private lands through conservation easements, is a secondary channel. Both public and private land impact constitute the biggest federal “land grab” that our nation has ever witnessed. Key examples of 30x30 implementation strategy include:

  • Climate change policy
  • Endangered species listings, and critical habitat designations
  • Wilderness designations, and expansions of existing wilderness
  • National monument designations
  • Marine and terrestrial “sanctuary” designations
  • Wild and Scenic River designations
  • Federal purchase of “management authority” of private agricultural and rural properties through conservation easements

In California, we have been watching these piece-by-piece strategies unfold for many years. Recent notable issues include the proposed Range of Light National Monument, massive overreach of managerial authority by the Forest Service, including the proposed creation of a 1-mile wide corridor along the Pacific Crest Trail, a never-ending line of proposed species for listing as Endangered or Threatened under the federal and California versions of the Endangered Species Act (including the California Spotted Owl, Western Joshua Trees, and Foothill Yellow Legged Frog), closure of OHV access in California State Parks (including Red Rock Canyon and Oceano Dunes SVRA), ongoing failure by federal and state agencies to effectively implement travel management within public lands, and much more.

Environmentalists, politicians, and 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. This action must be taken immediately, they claim, to avoid impacts on the ecosystem and wildlife. However, real science and data do not justify these extreme policy measures. 30x30 is an unconstitutional policy shift, moving us from a nation founded on private property principles, with public lands managed for the benefit of all citizens, to a nation in which both private and public lands are fully controlled by the administrative state. It is critical for everyone 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 30x30 report published May 6, 2021, entitled “America the Beautiful.”

In California, we have an added layer of complexity to the 30x30 agenda given that our state has adopted its own 30x30 program – 30x30 California. This program has created a robust financial infrastructure to incentivize cities, counties, private landowners, and public land managers to align local policies with 30x30 goals.

Map of California public landsThere is reasonable cause for alarm that we may see additional, heavy-handed acceleration of the 30x30 initiative in California through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM is currently advancing a proposed rule which could lead to massive restrictions for public land access across all lands managed by the BLM. The rule would prioritize designating Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and designate "conservation" as a use on public lands as well as authorizing conservation leases. This rule will essentially privatize conservation on public land and result in public land being sold to the highest bidder. The highest bidders for conservation leases will most likely be organizations like the Sierra Club, which will use their position as conservation leaseholders to limit other uses on public land. As shown in this map, the BLM currently manages 15% of the total sum of all land in California, and most of that land contains active populations and habitat for a large number of species that are listed or proposed for listing as Endangered or Threatened. Across the USA, there are over 1,300 species currently listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), many of those species are in California. Additionally, there are over 250 species listed under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Lands that host ESA and CESA species will be primary targets for the BLM to authorize conservation leases or implement “conservation” as a designated “use” of public land. Thus, if the BLM’s proposed rule is approved, we face the real risk of having large swaths of BLM land in California closed to multiple uses like outdoor recreation, including OHV recreation. Our friends at BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) are currently facilitating an Action Alert to gather public comments on this proposed rule. Please support the fight to stop the BLM from implementing “conservation” as a designated public land use! Go to the BRC website to submit a comment letter through their Action Alert today.

In addition to submitting comments like the BRC Action Alert for the BLM proposed rule… there is a lot that we can do to stop 30x30 in its tracks… to put an end to the government takeover of our public lands.

  • First, increase your knowledge base about 30x30. If you feel informed on the topic, you’re more likely to discuss it with your 4x4 club members, friends, and family. Two excellent sources are:
  • 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.
  • Download the American Stewards of Liberty “Guide to Fight 30x30” – and consider contacting your local county and city leaders to ask how 30x30 is being implemented in your area, and introduce the resolution to protect your county and city from 30x30 policies.

If you have questions or would like support with any of the action items listed above, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As the Natural Resources Consultant for Cal4Wheel, I am fighting the 30x30 land grab through a number of public land, species, and policy issues. I am eager to help members get involved so that we can increase and accelerate our impact, and preserve our access to recreate across California’s beautiful public lands.

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