Minimum step necessary, or federal land grab? Neguse to join 30×30 listening session |

Minimum step necessary, or federal land grab? Neguse to join 30×30 listening session

Wednesday evening session is open to the public

US Rep. Joe Neguse in Vail in 2018. On Wednesday, Neguse will join a listening session hosted by The Wilderness Society from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
John LaConte,

In a January 2021 executive order, President Joe Biden pledged his administration’s support of 30×30, a goal to protect at least 30% of all lands and waters by 2030.

The plan drew widespread support from environmental groups like Wilderness Workshop, which calls it a “winnable campaign,” citing a national poll from the Center for American Progress that — based on a survey of 1,203 registered voters — said 86% of those voters support setting a national goal of protecting 30% of America’s lands and ocean areas by 2030, including 76% of Republicans surveyed and 94% of Democrats.

Critics, however, call the plan a federal land grab and say there is no constitutional or statutory authority for the president, the Department of the Interior or the Department of Agriculture, to set aside and permanently preserve 30% of all land and water in the U.S.

Agriculture news and opinion publisher The Fence Post reports that Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, along with 16 other state governors, including Govs. Mark Gordon of Wyoming, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Greg Gianforte of Montana and Brad Little of Idaho, warned Biden of potential federal overreach in a a Feb. 22 letter.

“Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are our state’s original conservationists,” Ricketts said. “They work day in and day out to cultivate the land and manage water they’ve known for generations in a way that helps grow our state.”

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Ranchers skeptical

Livestock grazing, however, has been shown to be an environmentally destructive use of public land which destroys vegetation, damages native wildlife habitats and disrupts natural processes.

The Center for American Progress says while the currently accepted standards for an area of land or ocean to be counted as protected include national parks, wildlife refuges, national marine sanctuaries, national monuments, state parks, permanent conservation easements and national wildlife refuges; the 30×30 goal should also support the conservation efforts of private landowners, working waterfronts and the private sector, which could allow for ranching uses to remain.

Many national monuments, including the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, allow ranching through traditional gathering and livestock grazing permits.

But ranchers are skeptical of national monuments and other land preservation-by-proclamation techniques, an attitude which dates back to the Sagebrush Rebellion and its biggest supporter, President Ronald Regan, in the 1970s and 80s. The Sagebrush Rebellion left a legacy in the West which spurred efforts like the Bunkerville standoff in 2014, led by rancher Cliven Bundy.

Bundy was also a supporter of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

“Today President Trump had hundreds of thousands of people and he pointed the way — pointed toward congress and nodded his head go get the job done. We the People did clear the chambers of Congress and 100,000 should have spent the night in the halls and 100,000 should have protected them,” Bundy posted on Jan 6.

In January, Carl Segerstrom with High Country News wrote about the Sagebrush Rebellion’s connection to environmental efforts of that era.

“The original Sagebrush Rebellion of the mid-to-late-1970s — which inspired the modern Bundy-led standoffs but were not nearly as paramilitary — came in response to federal public-land laws like the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Wilderness Act and Endangered Species Act, which increasingly restricted how natural resources could be used,” Segerstrom wrote.

Segerstrom interviewed Daniel McCool, a political science professor at the University of Utah, following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

“The roots of the Sagebrush Rebellion were when they no longer got what they wanted,” McCool said. “There’s a direct line from there to the Bundy groups active today.”

Active today

Margaret Byfield, daughter of Sagebrush rebel Wayne Hage, is currently assisting ranchers in fighting the 30×30 plan in Nebraska.

“A federal bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., can’t match that institutional knowledge and love for the land,” she told the Fence Post in Greeley.

But on the other side of I-25, the 30×30 plan finds one of its strongest supporters in Congressman Joe Neguse, whose district extends from Ft. Collins to Avon.

“A commitment to conserve 30% of America’s lands and oceans by 2030 is absolutely essential and as many scientists suggest is a minimum step that must be taken to pull us back from the tipping point that nature and our climate have reached,” Neguse said in February of 2020, when he introduced the “Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature” along with Rep. Deb Haaland, who is now in charge of Bureau of Land Management areas as the Secretary of the Interior.

On Wednesday, Neguse will join a listening session hosted by The Wilderness Society from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. People interested in the 30×30 plan can register to join online on

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