Posted on June 1, 2021 by Sarah Winter Whelan
Dear President Biden,
Thank you for launching the nation's first-ever 10-year conservation strategy to equitably and collaboratively conserve nature. The Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful Initiative is a new opportunity for the federal government to reinvest and rectify centuries of inequitable conservation practices. This effort must center this work and rectify the years of neglect to ocean conservation. We've lost a lot of time and the biodiversity and climate crises are only worsening - making it even more imperative that we get this right while immediately taking action to implement this strategy.
To assist in this effort, I write today, asking that the Council on Environmental Quality, in consultation with the Department of Interior, Department of Commerce, and Department of Agriculture, take these three immediate steps for conserving 30 percent of our lands, waters, and ocean by 2030:
1. Develop a time-based road map for steps to engage communities and people over the next 12 months.
The initial report drew from the engagement of many diverse people and institutions, but if this effort is to reflect America, a critical component is a public-facing engagement process. This can be done through a variety of existing institutions, including regional ocean partnerships like NROC, MARCO, GOMA, and the WCOA. As it becomes safer to gather, we urge you to also hold separate in-person and virtual strategy sessions in the coastal and land-locked communities about the initiative's 8 principles for conservation and collaboration.
2. Ensure that along with voluntary and working conservation opportunities, the initiative is inclusive of the need for highly protected places.
This effort is meant to be inclusive, and specifically looks for collaborative and voluntary conservation opportunities. We applaud this effort and want to see the Administration prioritize opportunities along the spectrum of conservation, including highly protected places. This initiative can, and should be, be inclusive of different levels of conservation, but it cannot skip doing the hard work of highly protecting places to protect people and nature from the ravages of the biodiversity and climate crises.
3. Develop a strong national ocean climate action policy that can help implement this strategy.
Before the Trump Administration repealed the National Ocean Policy in 2018, our nation had a comprehensive ocean policy to direct federal agencies in their work to manage and protect our ocean space. We no longer have that. Instead, we have the remnants of the Trump "America First" ocean policy that called for reviewing existing ocean protections to determine their benefit against energy exploration and barely mentioned stewardship or conservation. That is NOT the policy of the Biden Administration, and it should no longer be allowed to sit "on the books" coloring this Administration's efforts on ocean climate action.
Thank you for launching the America the Beautiful Initiative.