It’s safe to assume a lot of politicians today on the national stage – particularly the lifers like Joe Biden – are just modern versions of the old wild west snake oil salesmen, constantly pitching cure-all miracle elixirs using fancy words meant to distract buyers from the fact that the bottle in their hand is figuratively filled with nothing but hot air, smoke, and mirrors.
Biden’s first outdoors related initiative, “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful,” is a good example of that.
The proposal calls for conserving 30 percent of America’s lands and water by the year 2030. What that really means or how that’s going to happen is open to interpretation as details thus far have been few and far between.
The only clues we have as to what it entails can be found by reading between the lines of a 22-page document released in early May by the Commerce, Interior and Agriculture Department highlighting the Biden administration’s central challenges to reaching the goal of conserving 30 percent of the nation’s land and water in just nine short years.
The report is chalk full of fancy buzz words like biodiversity, climate crisis, and inequitable access, but short on specifics, like the how’s, whys, where’s, and when’s of the plan.
In typical Washington D.C. style, the report doesn’t identify any places for enhanced protection, define what level of conservation would be required for an area to count toward the administration’s 30 percent goal or indicate how much federal funding would be needed to make Biden’s vision a reality.
There are those who would argue that the ambiguity is by design. Some environmentalists say that it would be impractical to make that assessment at this point, and that it will take time to muster the kind of grass-roots support needed to achieve such a sweeping conservation goal.
A more honest assessment would be that the delivery is as clear as mud.
That lack of clarity has caught the attention of elected officials from Minnesota concerned about the impact of this proposal on several key areas of importance to residents here including mining, farming, and recreation.
Last week Minnesota Republican Congressmen Pete Stauber, Tom Emmer, Jim Hagedorn, and Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach, sent a letter to the president expressing concerns about the initiative, otherwise known as 30x30.
In it they write that as representatives of 87 percent of Minnesota’s land, they feel the 30x30 “land grab” seeks to “preserve and conserve” by specifically placing 681 million acres of additional land and water under government control, including private land.
In an emailed news release announcing the letter, Stauber stated, “In northern Minnesota, we live, work, and play in the outdoors. Continued multiple uses of our land, including recreation like ATV riding, hunting, snowmobiling, and fishing, along with productive uses like timber harvesting, mineral development, and farming, are absolutely essential to our livelihoods and way of life. Unfortunately, the 30x30 land grab proposed by the Biden Administration’s Interior and other Departments would impair my constituents’ ability to live their daily lives.”
And he added, “It is mindboggling that President Biden and many of my Democrat colleagues hold the misguided belief that responsible stewardship means locking up our land and throwing away the key. As the Representatives of a majority of Minnesota’s land, my Republican colleagues and I are proud to demand answers from President Biden. He must be fully transparent on the enormous consequences that would result should this ill-advised proposal be implemented.”
In the letter they ask for more details, which, considering the lack of transparency from administration officials thus far on a wide range of topics and Biden’s recent actions when confronted with questions he doesn’t like from the media, may never come.
Stauber and company asked for answers to the following questions:
• First, considering the agriculture industry uses over half of our state’s total land area how many acres of this land in production will be locked up by 30x30, and from where? Currently, 68,822 farms in our state support more than 431,000 jobs and generate over $112 billion for the economy.
• Second, to what extent will 30x30 respect ongoing state and local conservation efforts? For example, over 9 million acres of farmland utilize reduced-till and no-till practices which prevent erosion and cultivate long-lasting soil health.
Another 5,302 farming operations within our state plant cover crops that also improve soil structure, as well as sequester carbon. If these voluntary state and local conservation practices are counted, we are already conserving more than 30 percent of our lands.
• Third, what will be the economic impact of 30x30 to our state’s $4 billion mining industry, and how will you ensure our national security is not compromised? Iron ore mining in northern Minnesota built America; 80% of our country’s steel originated as taconite, and these iron formations occur alongside massive deposits of copper, nickel, cobalt, and platinum-group elements.
Based on a 2019 University of Minnesota Duluth study, our mining industry pays out almost $1.1 billion in labor income and invests more than $2.1 billion in the state.
• Lastly, how will 30x30 impact recreational use of ATVs, motorboats, and snowmobiles? Minnesota currently has 21,000 miles of snowmobile trails alone, which are funded and maintained by private groups with federal, state, and local cooperation. However, motor vehicles of all types are currently prohibited on federally designated Wilderness lands.