In late January of 2021, President Biden announced a nation-wide initiative to protect 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030 (30×30). The America the Beautiful Initiative, as it is now known, represents a bold and necessary step towards the kind of large-scale conservation effort that is needed if we are to not only protect the future of humanity, but the future of our cohabitant more-than-human communities as well. Early in 2022, the administration announced a sister initiative called “Justice 40”, which aims to ensure that 40% of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments for the America the Beautiful Initiative go to disadvantaged and marginalized communities that are overburdened by the effects of climate change and industrial pollution.
In recognition that such ambitious pledges by the federal government should be supported and uplifted, and also held to a high degree of accountability to ensure that progress towards such lofty goals is measurable and tracked, a coalition of 150 organizations has come together to do just that. The America the Beautiful for All Coalition (AtB4A) is the largest and most diverse coalition to come together in service of the largest and most ambitious conservation target ever set in the United States. WildEarth Guardians has been participating in the AtB4A Public Lands Working Group, helping to articulate a vision for how 30×30 and Justice 40 can be implemented across national forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands across the country.
On January 27, 2023, the coalition released a policy agenda aimed at achieving continental-scale conservation through community-led projects and equitably-distributed funding. Through collaborative visioning and brainstorming, we developed 20 policy recommendations that will help the Biden administration take steps towards climate conservation and equity goals. Some of those recommendations include:
- Better connecting underserved and marginalized communities with historic levels of conservation and climate funding
- Increasing opportunities for co-management and co-stewardship of public lands and waters with Tribes, Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives and Territories
- Advancing community-led efforts to protect significant lands and waters and making these designations more effectively managed and implemented
- Improving access to open space and public lands in statistically nature-deprived communities which are predominantly frontline and communities of color
- Phasing out onshore and offshore drilling and supporting the just transition to renewable energy that centers on communities and protects nature
- Modernizing management processes to restore a balance of uses on public lands and waters, and make conservation a priority
- Strengthening programs that benefit clean water and disaster planning to prioritize nature-based solutions to climate impacts and distribute funding to frontline communities
This coalition of 150 organizations working to conserve 30 percent of land, water, and ocean by 2030 to avoid massive species loss, support equitable access to nature’s benefits, and prevent and repair the impacts of the climate crisis for all communities, while ensuring at least 40 percent of conservation investments support communities of color and frontline communities that have historically seen underinvestment in conservation and equitable access to nature, is representative of a paradigm shift in how conservation has been done in this country for the past 150 years. It is the kind of transformational change WildEarth Guardians envisions in our work to protect landscapes like the Greater Gila. We see participation in the AtB4A coalition as part of the growing local, regional, and national call to protect the places we love while ensuring justice is incorporated into conservation efforts across the country. A movement is building. Stay tuned as we continue to engage in this exciting national enterprise.