Concerned about the uncertainty that 30×30 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. This statement 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 30×30 proposals to ensure that access for hunters and anglers is protected. Following the Biden Administration’s announcement of the America the Beautiful Initiative in 2021, the sportsmen’s community engaged again by submitting formal recommendations that highlighted the concepts first included as part of the Community Statement.
Thirty by Thirty (30×30) 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. 30×30 proposals were originally linked to global land and water protected area targets established by the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity.
In an effort to address the uncertainty that 30×30 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 in 2020. This statement, which has now been signed by more than 60 conservation organizations, recognizes and embraces the overlap between the sportsmen’s community’s collective work to conserve fish and wildlife species, their habitats, and the establishment of ambitious global biodiversity conservation goals while outlining standards for 30×30 proposals to ensure that access for hunters and anglers is protected.
When conservation is appropriately defined, well-managed, sustainable hunting and fishing are consistent with 30×30’s objectives 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, 30×30 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.
30×30 policies have been introduced in Congress and CA, FL, HI, IL, MI, NM, NV, NY, SC, and VT. In addition, President Biden issued an Executive Order in early 2021 directing the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and 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.
This Executive Order resulted in the production of the “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” Report release in May 2021 which outlined the Biden Administration’s plan for future 30×30 efforts. Specifically, this report, which directly quoted the Hunting and Fishing Community Statement on the 30 by 30 Initiative, proposed the creation of an American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas to inventory existing lands and waters that are considered to be “conserved.” An interagency working group has been tasked with the development of this Atlas, and CSF and partners submitted a set of formal recommendations and is actively working with the Administration to ensure that all existing conservation efforts are adequately considered for inclusion.
In October 2021, and again during a 2022 public comment period published in the Federal Register, members of the Hunt Fish 30×30 Coalition submitted comments regarding the development of the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas (Atlas). These comments called on the Administration to recognize and consider for inclusion all activities that are contributing to active conservation. These comments were largely echoed in 2022 when the Council Coordinating Committee (CCC), which represents the nation’s eight regional fishery management councils, presented a report outlining a comprehensive evaluation of all management activities that should be included or considered as part of the Atlas.
At this time, an Atlas has not been finalized. However, recent reports and funding opportunities associated with the America the Beautiful Initiative have included a variety of conservation programs and practices that are consistent with the Hunt Fish 30×30 Coalition’s priorities. Further, references to the exact acreage goals, as were originally expressed in relation to the 30% objectives of the 30×30 Initiative, have become increasingly uncommon, suggesting that the sporting-conservation community’s assertions that the U.S. has already achieved such goals are being recognized. However, such realization should not discourage opportunities to advance pragmatic conservations actions rooted in the best available science, including through voluntary, incentive-based opportunities on private lands.
The sportsmen’s community created the original roadmap for natural resource conservation in the United States and is not opposed to 30×30 efforts, but to build broad support, 30×30 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 30×30 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 30×30 Initiative. When evaluating 30×30 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 30×30 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.