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Biden officials make recommendations for protecting 30% of U.S. land, water

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the state of his American Rescue Plan from the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Biden administration officials on Thursday took their first step toward carrying out the president's campaign pledge to conserve 30% of American land and water over the next decade, outlining six categories for how it should be used.

The "America the Beautiful" report by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory calls on the administration to back locally led conservation projects across the country with investments and focused policies.

"The President’s challenge is a call to action to support locally led conservation and restoration efforts of all kinds and all over America, wherever communities wish to safeguard the lands and waters they know and love," the officials wrote in a report to President Joe Biden's National Climate Taskforce.

In one of his first executive orders, Biden set a goal to protect 30% of land and water to safeguard sensitive lands and wildlife from extraction and development by 2030. He directed Cabinet members to draft recommendations for carrying this out after his first 100 days in office.

The report does not offer specifics about which areas could be set aside for conservation or whether they would be protected from productive use or resource extraction.

It outlines six priority areas of focus for the government for land that could ultimately get federal protection or investment.

This includes: creating more parks and green space in "nature-deprived communities," outdoor recreation access, preserving fish and wildlife habitats and corridors, incentivizing voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, ranchers, farmers, and forest owners; supporting tribally led conservation efforts; and investing in resilience and restoration projects, including a Civilian Climate Corps.

The report also calls for a new interagency working group to develop a conservation "atlas," which would establish a baseline of information on lands and waters that have already been conserved or restored to be able to track progress toward the 2030 goal.

Republican lawmakers oppose the so-called "30x30" goal. At an event this week, Republicans on the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources said they were concerned that the government could designate strict protections on some land that remained "productive."

Democratic lawmakers praised the report and the change in direction from the Trump administration, which sought to open up more federal land and water for drilling, mining, grazing and other activities.

"The days of looking across the great American landscape and seaboards and seeing nothing but fossil fuel profits are over," said U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva, chairman of the natural resources committee.

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