Three County Commissioners Voice Opposition to President Biden's '30x30' Initiative
Believe it would negatively impact ranchers
May 19, 2021
The Three Valley Commissioners have approved a resolution opposing the federal government’s “30x30” land preservation goal.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 27 he said would help restore balance on public lands and waters, create jobs and provide a path to align the management of America’s public lands and waters with the nation’s climate, conservation and clean energy goals.
“We are concerned because we have this sudden goal with huge changes,” Chairman John Fahlgren said during the regular commission meeting May 12.
The commissioners said the initiative could potentially have a detrimental impact on area farmers and ranchers.
“There is really no definition,” Commissioner Paul Tweten said. “Until you get it defined, we are going to be coming down in support of agriculture and our economy that we have.”
“Basically, that is our job as commissioners,” Commissioner Mary Armstrong added.
The Executive Order directed the Department of the Interior to pause new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters, concurrent with a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program.
Instead, the Executive Order directed the Interior Department to identify steps to “accelerate responsible development of renewable energy on public lands and waters, including setting a goal to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030.”
The Executive Action also directed the Interior Department to outline steps to achieve the president’s commitment to conserve at least 30% each of American lands and waters by 2030 “in order to safeguard our health, food supplies, biodiversity and the prosperity of every community.”
The Biden Administration continues to push for ways to achieve more “equitable” access to nature and its benefits for all people in America.
Approximately 60% of land in the continental U.S. Is currently in a natural state. However, the Interior Department states about a football field worth of it every 30 seconds.
According to the resolution submitted by the three commissioners, the primary economic driver for Valley County is farming and ranching, with many in the agriculture business dependent upon permits to access federal grazing lands to be viable.
“We assert that cooperative management of these lands by farmers and ranchers and the federal agencies is more beneficial to the environment than 'preservation,'” the resolution reads.
Currently, the federal government owns about 1.6 million acres, or 48%, of the land within the county. The lands are administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Army Corps of Engineers (COE).
About 65,000 acres of BLM lands are protected as wilderness study areas, while another 200,000 acres are protected by FWS and COE for wildlife with managed livestock grazing.
Additionally, lands held by the federal government in trust to the Fort Peck Tribes total about 214,000 acres, or 7% of land within the county.
The state of Montana owns and additional 214,00 acres in county, or 7%.
Private lands consist of about 330,00 acres, or 35% of land in county, and are primarily used for agriculture purposes. Of that, about 67% is protected with perpetual conservation easements, meaning it cannot be developed or used as farmland. This not only reduces agricultural productivity, but reduces the amount of taxes available for collection.
With ample protections in place, the Commissioners say any additional federal regulation would reduce or eliminate grazing areas for livestock and would leave them highly susceptible to wildland wildfires and weed infestation.
The board opposes the 30x30 program, including its objective of permanently preserving 30% of the land mass in the United States, and supports the “unfettered private ownership of land” in Valley County.
Furthermore, the commissioners do not believe the Biden Administration nor the Department of the Interior has the constitutional or statutory authority to set aside and permanently preserve 30% of all land within the United States.
The three commissioners are joined in their opposition by Governors Greg Gianforte of Montana, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Mark Gordon of Wyoming, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Brad Little of Idaho.
On Feb. 22, the governors sent a letter to Biden warning against the potential federal overreach spelled out in the 30x30 initiative.
The board will send a copy of the resolution to the Department of the Interior and other agencies.