By Catherine Mortensen
One of President Joe Biden’s first acts as president was to sign an executive order that went almost completely unnoticed. The so-called “30 by 30” initiative calls for placing 30% of all U.S. lands and waters into conservation status, which could mean an end to private leases on public lands and could eventually lead to a federal land grab of private properties.
While supporters of the measure claim it is an attempt to address climate change and protect the global ecosystem, private landowners and local governments are concerned this is nothing more than a massive power grab intended to destroy private property rights.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts was the first of 15 governors to oppose Biden’s “30 by 30” plan. Ricketts issued an executive order sending a clear message to the Biden administration that Nebraskans will continue to manage their land without federal intrusion.
“What we’ve asked for from the Biden administration is for more information, because their math doesn’t work,” Ricketts said. “Either they’re going to fail to get to 30% or they’re not telling us something else about how they’re going to get to 30% and that’s what makes us concerned here in Nebraska.”
The order states the “federal conservation mandates have no constitutional basis, and have great potential to devastate Nebraska’s economy,” and that the “federal 30 percent conservation goal would interfere with the States’ constitutional and traditional power over land and water uses.” It also notes that “the people of Nebraska oppose federal overreach and want to protect our state’s land and water to continue to make them more productive.”
More than 70 counties, including those in western states, where 92% of the federally owned lands are, have passed resolutions opposing the land grab.
Left-leaning environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council are driving the agenda. A recent blog post on its website says: “We are urging the U.S. to lead in this vital global effort by working with states, local communities, tribes and private landowners to ramp up strong protections for lands, waters and ocean areas. We need dramatic change, and we need it fast.”
While the Biden administration is promising to work with local governments cooperatively to achieve these bold conservation goals, local lawmakers say that’s not happening.
Will Cavin, a county commissioner in rural Chaves County in southeastern New Mexico, believes the government will come into communities and do whatever it wants. “The government will start pulling back the leases that these ranchers and farmers have with the government,” Cavin explained.“Just like when President Biden pulled all the oil and gas leases on federal lands. He just shut them all down.”
Cavin warns this isn’t just something western landowners should be concerned about. He said if grazing permits are pulled, the price of beef and dairy will climb for all Americans.
Margaret Byfield, executive director of American Stewards of Liberty, a Texas-based nonprofit that advocates for private property rights, said the fact that the most biodiverse places in America are on private land is not by accident.
“Your best land manager is that person who lives his entire life on that land and spends his entire life taking care of it, and producing from that land,” Byfield explained. “That person knows every acre better than anybody else and has experienced every cycle of weather on that land.”
Byfield, who was raised on a large cow calf operation in central Nevada, said many of today’s ranchers and farmers are on land their families have owned for four, five, or six generations. “Our primary purpose is to make that land better so we can turn it over to [our] kids, while making a living off of it. Nobody is going to take care of that land better than that person who is directly tied to the land. You cannot replace that with administrative bureaucracy,” Byfield concluded.
Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees that private property rights are in danger.
“The presentation as a voluntary conservation program is totally fraudulent,” Ebell said. “It is meant to be a massive land grab. But they need to quiet the fears of landowners and sign up at least some to the gravy train.” Ebell noted that national groups representing farmers and cattlemen have so far been somewhat supportive of the president’s plan, but he doesn’t expect that to last. “My view is that it won’t be a gravy train for long, but the steps from paying ranchers and farmers to regulatory seizure are uncertain,” Ebell concluded.
Byfield believes that private property rights, which she said are the key to America’s wealth and freedom, must be abolished for Biden to impose socialism. “Our ability to own property is what gives us that individual freedom to control our lives. It’s the source ofour wealth. Societies where individuals are most free, and nations are most productive result from an absence of federal control of our lives. That is the key to America’s prosperity.”
For more information on protecting your community and private lands from the “30 by 30” project, go to Americanstewards.us.