Protecting America’s lands and waters is essential to solving the environmental crisis
Nature across the world is collapsing. Global human activity has altered three-quarters of the Earth’s lands, while within the United States, the equivalent of about a football field of natural area is converted to human development every 30 seconds. Leading scientists warn that this rapid loss of natural space is resulting in a mass extinction, exacerbated by climate change. In the face of this crisis, scientists have urged us to conserve at least 30 percent of the planet’s lands and waters by 2030 (the 30×30 goal), a necessary step to prevent the unraveling of fundamental natural systems. Science shows that protecting and restoring natural areas is the most effective way to slow extinctions and retain resilient ecosystems, with much higher animal and plant abundance within protected areas. Protected natural areas are also critical to stabilizing the climate and reducing the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change.
Our nation’s federally protected public lands—such as national monuments, wilderness areas, and wildlife refuges—showcase America’s most spectacular outdoor spaces while preserving them for wildlife and future generations. These protected areas draw visitors, benefit local economies, provide fresh drinking water, and improve human health.
The United States provides a key opportunity to protect nature: nearly 60 percent of lands in the continental U.S. are still in a mostly natural condition or could be restored, making the U.S. one of the top five countries for conserving lands in their natural state. It is critical that those natural spaces that still remain are protected for the future through innovative preservation approaches; private conservation; tribal initiatives; or local, state, and federal public land protection.
Shortly after being sworn into office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing his administration to develop a plan for reaching the 30×30 goal. The resulting “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” report identifies guiding principles to support locally-led conservation efforts that increase equitable access to nature, and recommends steps the federal government can take to work with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as agricultural landowners, hunters and anglers, and other key stakeholders to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030.
It is ambitious but achievable to conserve 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030. In order to succeed, the Biden administration must support diverse, locally-led conservation efforts across the country while also increasing protections for local, state, and federal public lands. To learn more about efforts to conserve nature and provide equitable access to safe outdoor spaces across the country, please visit our Road to 30: Postcards campaign to see and hear from the local leaders who are driving those efforts forward.