Tag: #WSC

By Ashley Korenblat 

The below is an update from Ashley about the 30×30 America the Beauty initiative. The original blog on this topic focused on what it means for the bike community.

The Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative was inspired by the idea that we need to protect 30% of the earth’s surface by 2030, thus 30 x 30. This goal was first proposed by climate scientists from around the world. Yet some elected officials, particularly in Western States are painting this effort as a land grab. They see 30 x 30 in the black and white context of land is either available to use or it is locked up for the benefit of ‘nature’ not humans.

Of course, there is a natural tension between using the earth’s resources to improve the human condition and the inevitable disruption of our natural systems. The question is at what point does our short-term use of the land to meet today’s needs threaten our long-term survival?  We can all probably agree that if we disturb 100% of the earth’s surface that it will be very difficult for the planet to produce the clean air and water critical to our survival.  But at the same time, we need resources, including food, and our current systems require us to disturb natural ecosystems. The question is the ratio—how much of the earth can we disturb to meet our needs without throwing off the whole system?

For now, the answer is 70% since our best researchers have told us that we need to keep at least 30% of the planet in its natural state. This does not mean that all of the lands involved must be owned by the federal government or that they must be protected by the Wilderness Act.  If we look at the problem from a county-by-county perspective, the question is what lands in your county are contributing to processing carbon? –to protecting water supplies?  –regardless of who owns them.

We know that all people need access to healthy landscapes. Green space of all types is in high demand, a trend that the pandemic has intensified. Prosperous cities and towns across the country are planning with nature in mind for all of their citizens. Quality of life is a key component of economic progress and businesses of all types are investing in places where their employees can get outside.  Land in its natural state has economic value that will only appreciate over time.

The America the Beautiful initiative is a framework we can use to break the dichotomy between development and conservation. We can find the right balance between use and preservation using these components of the program:

  • Pursue a Collaborative and Inclusive Approach to Conservation
  • Conserve America’s Lands and Waters for the Benefit of All People
  • Support Locally Led and Locally Designed Conservation Efforts
  • Honor Tribal Sovereignty and Support the Priorities of Tribal Nations
  • Pursue Conservation and Restoration Approaches that Create Jobs and Support Healthy Communities
  • Honor Private Property Rights and Support the Voluntary Stewardship Efforts of Private Landowners and Fishers
  • Use Science as a Guide
  • Build on Existing Tools and Strategies with an Emphasis on Flexibility and Adaptive Approaches

The administration has made clear that America the Beautiful is an opt in opportunity which nearly every county in America could use to their advantage. If you are a western county with large amounts of public land, are you optimizing that use to keep your air and water clean? If you are an eastern county with very little green space, what steps can you take to make nature available to your citizens? Today’s challenges require new ways of thinking about the land around us and America the Beautiful is an opportunity to do just that.

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There is no doubt that, whether we like it or not, the oil and natural gas industry plays a big part in our day-to-day lives. As oil and gas users, it is crucial that we take on the responsibility of asking our government and the producers to use best practices when developing oil and gas, as we all work towards a transition to more climate-friendly sources of energy.

Methane is a primary ingredient of natural gas, and when wells are drilled, methane escapes into the atmosphere. Methane traps over 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide. (Note: Methane referenced here is specific to oil and gas. Cows do affect climate, but that is a different topic.) Methane from oil and gas production is responsible for around 25% of the environmental impacts we are experiencing today. 

The oil and gas industry knows that leaking methane is a problem, and there are many companies working to produce better valves, piping, storage tanks, etc., to better control methane leakage. The Obama administration issued a Methane Rule that was established to require operators to use these improved products and techniques on their well pads. However, the Trump Administration rolled back this rule. In the past few weeks, both the House and the Senate voted to reinstate this rule, and President Biden is expected to sign the joint resolution.

Many bike trails around the west travel across and through active oil and gas fields where methane and other unhealthy gases are affecting air quality. It is therefore in the best interest of trail users to encourage and require oil and gas operators to put best practices in place to stop the leaks. 

Additionally, by producing, installing, and monitoring new equipment to capture more methane, oil and gas producers will have more natural gas to sell while simultaneously creating jobs, and reducing the leak of Methane into the environment. The Methane Rule is a win/win solution for both the oil and gas industry and recreation, and we look forward to its reinstatement immediately.

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Earlier this month, the Biden Administration launched the America the Beautiful Initiative, a ten-year, locally led, voluntary effort to restore and conserve America’s lands, waters, and wildlife. This program was inspired by the goal of preserving 30% of America’s lands and oceans by 2030, dubbed the “30×30” initiative.

The goal is to make real progress on the climate crisis by protecting ecosystems and keeping more land in its natural state. By doing this, we can capture more metric tons of CO2, while simultaneously protecting wildlife habitat and providing more places for people to recreate. America the Beautiful is a nationwide project that incorporates existing efforts to protect and conserve land, while also encouraging new ones.

This effort focuses on both the quantity of land preserved – by adding some level of protection to federal, state, county, or private undeveloped land – and the quality of protections for the land; for example, bills that upgrade federally-owned BLM land to a National Recreation Area, or, if the acres qualify, to a designated Wilderness area. While the America the Beautiful initiative does include many such proposals, these areas have been examined by the bike community and  no existing bike trails would be closed.

In fact, the America the Beautiful initiative is much more likely to provide additional acreage of all types where new bike trails can be built. Much of the emphasis is on providing access to natural places to more people, and this means more trails near more cities. With a nationwide push to preserve open space, we can protect the trails we already have and gain land to build new ones, and everyone in the biking community will benefit.

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