30x30: Recognizing Sportsmen’s Contributions to Conservation

Summary

Concerned about the uncertainty that 30x30 policies may pose for hunting and fishing access, the sportsmen’s community issued the Hunting and Fishing Community Statement on the 30 by 30 Initiative, which recognizes and embraces the overlap between the sportsmen’s community’s collective work to conserve fish and wildlife species and their habitats and the establishment of ambitious global biodiversity conservation goals, while outlining standards for 30x30 proposals to ensure that access for hunters and anglers is protected.

Introduction

The Thirty by Thirty (30x30) Initiative is a global initiative started by the environmental community that seeks to protect the earth’s biodiversity and address climate change by protecting 30% of the planet’s lands and waters by the year 2030. 30x30 proposals are linked to global land and water protected area targets established by the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity.

Concerned about the uncertainty that 30x30 policies may pose for hunting and fishing access, the sportsmen’s community issued the Hunting and Fishing Community Statement on the 30 by 30 Initiative, which recognizes and embraces the overlap between the sportsmen’s community’s collective work to conserve fish and wildlife species and their habitats and the establishment of ambitious global biodiversity conservation goals, while outlining standards for 30x30 proposals to ensure that access for hunters and anglers is protected.

Well-managed, sustainable hunting and fishing are consistent with 30x30’s conservation goals and provide a financial catalyst for achieving the biodiversity goals through the American System of Conservation Funding.  As America’s original conservationists, the hunting and fishing community has proactively supported strategic efforts to conserve our nation’s terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems for more than a century. The ability to connect with our land, water, fish and wildlife through our outdoor pursuits continues to result in a deep appreciation and understanding of the link between healthy habitats, thriving fish and wildlife populations, and human health.

To avoid merely aspirational policies, it is critical that states first inventory lands and waters already protected­­­ to establish a baseline. In doing so, states must also be able to define what it means to “protect” land and water. By identifying and defining protections already in place, states are then able to identify additional conservation needs through an objective, science-driven, stakeholder-engaged process to determine the appropriate level of management actions necessary to meet biodiversity conservation goals.   

Defining “Protection” and Inventorying “Protected Areas”

Depending on how “protection” is defined, the measurement of “protected areas” can change significantly. It is not effective to merely classify an area as “protected” or “unprotected.” Rather, the level of protection should be guided by the habitat needs of species and focused on the lands and waters where biodiversity protections are needed most. There are multiple systems to classify different levels of protection:     

  • IUCN - The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines protected areas as “geographical space, recognised [sic], dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.” There are seven management categories based on the primary management objectives of the protected area that considers who holds the authority to manage the area.
  • GAP - The U.S. Geological Survey inventories America’s terrestrial and marine protected areas including open space/resource lands owned in fee by government agencies and non-profits and includes private conservation easements. The protected area is given a Gap Analysis Project (GAP) Status Code which indicates how the area is being managed for conservation purposes and includes a measure of public access for recreation.

Examples of “protected areas” include, among others, state lands (e.g. state forests, wildlife management areas, state parks), federal lands (e.g. National Forests, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges), lands subject to conservation agreements (term and perpetual), and working lands enrolled in conservation programs (e.g. Environmental Quality Incentives Program). 

The National Academy of Sciences assessed the U.S. protected areas portfolio with respect to biodiversity and found that U.S. protected lands mismatch biodiversity priorities. To adequately protect America’s unique biodiversity, 30x30 proposals should consider State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) which serve as the blueprints for conserving America’s fish and wildlife and preventing the listing of species. SWAPs are required by each state and territory as a condition for receiving funding through the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program administered by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Each plan is specific to the state and includes the latest scientific information to guide conservation planning for the identified Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and direction for the implementation of plans that support the conservation of the SGCN and their habitats which furthers biodiversity conservation.

However protection is defined, it should include different management categories that allow for active management and sustainable use with the goal of strategically protecting or restoring habitat for the conservation of biodiversity.

Policies Introduced

30x30 policies have been introduced in Congress and CA, HI, IL, and SC.  In addition, President Biden recently issued an Executive Order directing the Department’s of Agriculture, Commerce and Interior, as well as the Council on Environmental Quality, to develop a list of recommendations to achieve the goal of conserving thirty percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030.

Moving Forward

The sportsmen’s community created the original roadmap for natural resource conservation in the United States and is not opposed to 30x30 efforts, but to build broad support, 30x30 initiatives must (1) apply a uniform definition and categorization of protected areas and (2) conduct a baseline inventory of lands and waters already protected.

If this information is not readily available, proposals should explicitly define a process to inventory existing protected lands and waters through credible research conducted by a government entity and ensure that findings are easily accessible by the public. This inventory should consider not only the size, but the conservation values of currently protected areas within a state. This information is necessary to understand the current scale of protection within a state and assess progress towards achieving the true 30x30 objective of biodiversity conservation. In addition, this information will allow resource managers to target habitats for protection that will more effectively conserve fish, wildlife and terrestrial, wetland, aquatic, and marine resources where conservation actions are needed most.

HuntFish3030.com is a resource for policymakers to learn more about the sportsmen’s community position on the 30x30 Initiative. When evaluating 30x30 proposals, policymakers are encouraged to consult with their local sportsmen’s community and their respective state fish and wildlife agency to ensure:

  • The positive role that hunting and fishing play in conservation is recognized;
  • Protected area definitions allow for well-managed and sustainable wildlife-dependent activities;
  • Existing protected areas are considered when measuring progress towards stated goals;
  • Science-based conservation measures are developed through a stakeholder-driven process;
  • Roles and authorities for the entities charged with carrying out the 30x30 proposal are clearly defined; and
  • Implementation of the 30 by 30 initiative, beyond conducting the baseline inventory of lands and waters protected, does not divert funding from the state’s existing conservation and natural resource management activities.

Contact

For more information regarding this issue, please contact Chris Horton; chorton@congressionalsportsmen.org

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