On April 11, the Biden administration announced a $1 billion effort to accelerate conservation and restoration efforts at the local level that will further the president’s goal of protecting at least 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030 (known as “30×30”). Much of the initial funding for the new “America the Beautiful Challenge” will come from the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress in 2021.
Biden initiated the 30×30 plan by signing a January 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Polling shows that the plan is incredibly popular, with support from four out of five voters.
But that won’t stop Republicans, climate deniers, and ranchers from gathering on Earth Day, Apr. 22, for a “Stop 30×30 Summit” in Lincoln, Nebraska. The event is hosted by Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) and presented by the American Stewards of Liberty, a Texas-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting private property rights, fighting the “radical environmental movement,” and delisting endangered species.
Ricketts was the first governor to publicly oppose 30×30 through an executive order in June 2021, and also spearheaded a letter he signed with 14 fellow Republican governors informing Biden that they will resist implementing 30×30 measures.
Sponsors of the summit include the climate change deniers Center for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), Heartland Institute and the Heritage Foundation, along with several ranching and agriculture groups.
Agenda Features Republicans United Against Environmental Action
In addition to serving as host, Ricketts will deliver the summit keynote, which discusses his own executive order. That talk will be followed by a panel discussion among Nebraska state officials who “will explain the actions they have taken as a result” of the governor’s order.
Also on the agenda are Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who introduced the 30 x 30 Termination Act in May 2021 in their respective congressional chambers. The bill, which would further restrict federal government efforts to conserve and protect the environment, stands little chance of passing while Democrats retain control of Congress. However, if Republicans regain control of the House and Senate following this year’s midterms, the bill is highly likely to pass.
David Bernhardt, the former Secretary of the Interior under Trump, is also scheduled to speak at the summit. As secretary, he issued a policy requiring consent from states and counties to federal land acquisitions, but it was overturned by the Biden administration. The current Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, joined Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in introducing 30×30 resolutions in 2020 when she was a member of the House.
Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory (R) will speak at the summit on how the 30×30 plan will impact energy security and will facilitate another panel on “state policy solutions.” A politician active with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Ivory leads the secretive Functional Federalism Working Group at ALEC that is charged with producing state solutions to counter the Biden administration’s efforts to address the climate crisis.
Call records from one of the working group’s meetings obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and reported on by Grist detail three strategies Ivory shared with ALEC state lawmakers for blocking the Biden administration’s climate agenda:
nullification, or passing state legislation to invalidate federal actions that states believe are unconstitutional; the initiation of a constitutional convention that would pass amendments giving states more power; and the passage of non-binding resolutions reaffirming the U.S. Constitution’s Tenth Amendment, which declares that powers not explicitly granted to the federal government belong to the states, in state legislatures.
ALEC is a major climate denier and purveyor of misinformation related to the climate emergency. Charles Koch’s political network and Koch Industries are significant supporters of the pay-to-play bill mill and are heavily involved, as are Marathon Petroleum and other Big Polluters. (See CMD’s ALEC Exposed for the most up-to-date list of ALEC corporations.)
At the April 22 summit, a panel of county commissioners and ranchers will discuss “Issues Across America.” American Stewards of Liberty has prepared various model resolutions for counties to introduce as part of their activism to fight 30×30. According to its tracker, 114 resolutions have already been passed by counties in 13 states opposing Biden’s conservation and restoration plan.
Becky Norton Dunlop, who served in the Reagan administration as deputy undersecretary of the Interior Department and as assistant interior secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and is now the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, will speak on “Property Rights, Stewardship, & Liberty.” Her colleague at Heritage, Senior Fellow Rob Gordon, will also present on “The True State of America’s Land and Habitat.”
Heartland Institute President James Taylor is scheduled to discuss “The Climate Agenda Driving 30 x 30.”
Margaret Byfield, executive director for American Stewards of Liberty, will conclude the daylong summit with remarks titled “Stop 30×30 Action Plan.” Her presentation may be pulled from a “Guide to Fight 30 X 30 Land Grab” document that was circulated among anti-environmental groups this spring.
This story is published as part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of news outlets strengthening coverage of the climate story.