In recent weeks, we’ve been reading about a Texas-based organization called American Stewards of Liberty that has set its sights on influencing politics in Colorado and elsewhere around the country in regard to President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, otherwise described as the “30x30” plan.
America the Beautiful is a 10-year plan to conserve 30% of the nation’s lands and waters. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet supports it. It sounds good to those concerned with wildlands, wildlife and water, right? But for those who are fearful of federal government intervention in their private property, not so good.
The truth is in the details, and it is those details that the far-right American Stewards are ignoring as they attempt to frighten and mislead Coloradans.
The plan is part of the president’s Executive Order 14008, “Tackling Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.”
Here is what is important to know about this initiative: It supports “locally led and voluntary conservation and restoration effort across public, private, and Tribal lands and waters in order to create jobs and strengthen the economy’s foundation; tackle the climate and nature crises; and address inequitable access to the outdoors,” according to a news release from the Department of the Interior.
The authors of the report anticipated pushback from those, including our own Rep. Lauren Boebert, who claims 30x30 constitutes a “land grab” that will prevent existing uses of public and private land. American Stewards of Liberty – whose support includes dark money from the Koch brothers and the DeVos family – say the initiative is promoted by “radical environmental activists.”
But over and over again in the 24-page report, the many uses of private and public lands are supported, not threatened. It speaks of “incentivizing voluntary stewardship efforts on private lands,” suggesting things like tax credits and grants to support existing and/or new programs that help preserve nature while at the same time using it.
The report includes eight principles that should guide this 30x30 effort. Among them are to support locally led and locally designed conservation efforts; honor Tribal sovereignty and support the priorities of Tribal Nations; honor private property rights and support the voluntary stewardship of private landowners and fishers; and use science as a guide.
The report includes a call for a baseline study to create the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, which will assess where we are now, and annual reports that will update us on the “health of nature in America.”
In short, nothing in the report even remotely suggests the fearsome threats the American Stewards claim in its “Guide to Fight the 30x30 Land Grab.” Nothing. And so far, no legislation with expenditures tied to it has even been proposed. American Stewards is merely using this “vision statement,” as The Washington Post has correctly called it, in an appeal meant to divide Americans, particularly Coloradans, to pit us against one another in an imaginary fight against an imaginary enemy.
Garfield, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Animas counties have already been duped by American Stewards into passing resolutions opposing the 30x30 initiative, according to an in-depth and balanced article about the controversy by Nancy Lofholm of The Colorado Sun. Montezuma County commissioners are said to be considering it.
Coloradans love nature. We like using the outdoors, for recreation, hunting, fishing, farming, ranching. We may disagree on the means of preserving land, on tactics and strategies, but we are all on the same side. We all want our grandchildren to have clean air, water and land.
Don’t be fooled by outsiders trying to tell Coloradans how to think. Read the report, readily accessible online, and develop your own opinion.