A U.S. Senate resolution written by Senator Tom Udall calls for concerted and sustained action to halt destruction of natural ecosystems, establishing a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and ocean of the United States by the year 2030. Referred to as the “30 by 30 Resolution,” it notes that “conserving and restoring nature is one of the most efficient and cost-effective strategies for fighting climate change.”
The resolution’s preamble asserts that “to confront the deterioration of natural systems and the loss of biodiversity around the world, and to remain below a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperature, scientists recommend that roughly one-half of the planet be conserved. “Whereas, as a step toward achieving that goal, some scientists have recommended that all countries commit to conserving and protecting at least 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the ocean in each country by 2030, with a long-term goal of conserving one-half of the planet.”
The senate resolution was initially co-sponsored by Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin, Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Chris Van Hollen, Jeff Merkley, Richard Blumenthal and Dianne Feinstein. It is sponsored by Representative Deb Haaland in the House.
“Just over 50 years ago, my father, Stewart Udall, sounded the alarm about the quiet loss of nature,” Senator Tom Udall said in introducing the resolution. “Back then in just a few short years, our nation drastically deepened its commitment to the land and waters that sustain us by creating some of our most successful conservation programs.
“But today, the crisis is even more dire, and we need to meet it with the urgency it requires.” Udall emphasized that “humans are destroying nature at a devastating rate. Only reversing the Trump Administration’s wreckage would be like applying a band-aid to a life-threatening wound. We must write a new playbook to address the climate and nature crises.”
The wide-ranging document sets out policies including “increasing public incentives for private landowners to voluntarily conserve and protect areas of demonstrated conservation value and with a high capacity to sequester carbon and greenhouse gas emissions,” as well as “preventing extinction by recovering and restoring animal and plant species.”
Udall participated in an online panel discussion with the Aspen Institute and The Wilderness Society July 29 on the topic “Connecting the Continent: conservation that unites people, lands and wildlife.” He was joined by Zuni conservationist Jim Enote, president of the Colorado Plateau Foundation; Jodi Hilty, chief scientist for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative; Rae Wynn-Grant, ecologist with the National Geographic Society; and Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society.
Corrales is almost a second hometown for Senator Udall; more often than not, he has joined Corrales’ Fourth of July Parade over several decades. To explain the need for the “30 by 30” campaign, Udall notes that “from 2001 to 2017, a quantity of natural areas equal to the size of a football field disappeared to development every 30 seconds in the United States, constituting more than 1,500,000 acres per year; “A finding, published in the journal Science, that the United States and Canada have lost 2,900,000,000 birds since 1970, representing a decline of 29 percent;
“The identification by State fish and game agencies of approximately 12,000 animal and plant species in the United States that require proactive conservation efforts to avoid extinction, of which approximately one-third will be lost in the next decades; “A finding by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that the United States has lost more than one-half of all freshwater and saltwater wetlands in the contiguous 48 states; and “The 2019 findings by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services [reveal] that—
• human activities are damaging 2⁄3 of ocean areas;
• only 3 percent of ocean areas remain pristine;
• 15 percent of mangroves remain;
• 50 percent of coral reefs remain; and
• at the current rate of losses, less than 10 percent of the Earth will be free of substantial human impact by 2050….”
Udal pointed out that the Third National Climate Assessment found that climate change:
• is reducing the ability of ecosystems to provide clean water and regulate water flows;
• is limiting the ability of nature to buffer communities against disasters such as fires, storms and floods, which disproportionately impacts communities of color and indigenous populations; and
• is having far-reaching effects on marine and terrestrial wildlife, including by altering habitats, forcing changes to migratory patterns, and altering the timing of biological events….”
Earlier this month, the World Wildlife Fund documented that the world has lost two-thirds of global animal, bird and fish populations over the past 50 years. Udall highlighted that assessment when he issued the following statement to renew his call for bold action to protect 30 percent of our land and waters by 2030. “This new report brings the consequences of habitat destruction and species exploitation into stark relief: human actions have accelerated the loss of two-thirds of our planet’s wildlife in the blink of an evolutionary eye. This is an unsustainable and self-destructive crisis for humanity.
“Our collective survival depends on the global ecosystems of plants, animals, birds and fish that sustain the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We must urgently prioritize policies that repair our planet’s life support system, which is why I have introduced the ‘30x30 Resolution to Save Nature’ to set a national goal of conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.
“We must also change our pattern of unsustainable consumption and waste that wreaks havoc on land and marine ecosystems if we want to pass a livable planet on to our children and grandchildren. We need to look no further than our streets and streams littered with plastic trash and marine life tangled in plastic waste, which are only the most visible parts of an avalanche of plastic pollution that is harming humans and wildlife at the most microscopic level and disrupting natural food patterns. The senate should pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act to finally make corporations pay their fair share of cleanup costs.
“Today’s report marks an urgent call to action for every one of us. While we confront the intersecting crises of the current pandemic and economic recession, we must chart a sustainable path forward that seizes the economic and public health benefits of nature protection and climate action. The rapid loss of nature and unchecked global warming make each crisis worse —but action on climate and conservation reinforce each other and are both necessary to ensure the prosperity of future generations. The American people are calling out for action and we have the power to help the natural world recover. We have no more time to waste to save our planet, and ourselves.”
The “30 by 30 Resolution” states that “the decline of natural areas and wildlife in the United States follows global patterns, as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that approximately 1,000,000 plant and animal species are threatened by extinction over the coming decades as a result of land conversion, development, climate change, invasive species, pollution and other stressors…. “Nature, like the climate, is nearing a tipping point where the continued loss and degradation of the natural environment will:
(1) push many ecosystems and wildlife species past the point of no return;
(2) threaten the health and economic prosperity of the United States; and
(3) increase the costs of natural disasters, for which the Federal Government spent about $91,000,000,000 in 2018.”
Udall pointed out that “the federal government, the private sector, civil society, farmers, ranchers, fishing communities and sportsmen have a history of working together to conserve the land and ocean of the United States.” The policies emphasize protection of “private property rights and traditional land uses, and enable landowners to pass down the working land of those landowners to the next generations because private land accounts for approximately 60 percent of the land area in the contiguous states.”
Udall said July 5 he was pleased that his resolution has been incorporated into the U.S. House of Representatives’ Climate Crisis Action Plan which calls for the United States to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. In its Summer 2020 newsletter, the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands director, Randi Spivak, noted that “We’re at a crossroads. We can preserve and restore our lands and waters, and prevent mass extinction, or see the ecosystems of our planet unravel past a point of no return.”
His article advocated the “30 by 30” campaign, warning that “wildlife populations are crashing around the world. Scientists predict that more than one million species are on track for extinction in the coming decades.” Spivak wrote that “Achieving 30x30 will take local, state and tribal government actions, too, but Congress and the next president will need to do the heavy lifting.”