The National Sea Grant Law Center


  • Biden Administration Releases its Preliminary 30 by 30 Conservation Report

  • June 8th, 2021 — by Madeline Doten — Category: Miscellaneous

  • “O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!” On May 6, 2021, the Biden Administration released a preliminary report for its aptly named America the Beautiful campaign detailing its plan to conserve 30% of the United States’ lands and waters by 2030. This report, titled Conserving and Protecting America the Beautiful, is the product of President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, which directs the administration to develop and pursue strategies for combating climate change, increasing clean energy efforts, and conserving America's natural resources. In particular, the Order directed the Secretary of Interior, along with the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, and the Council on Environmental Quality, to prepare and deliver this report regarding the administration’s “30 by 30” conservation plan to the National Climate Task Force. The report is less a specific blueprint and more a re-envisioning of America’s approach to conservation.

    At the heart of the America the Beautiful campaign is a locally led and voluntary nationwide system of protection for U.S. lands and waters. The Conserving and Protecting America the Beautiful report details the importance of considering the needs of all communities in the United States when carrying out the nation’s conservation efforts, and also identifies eight key principles critical to the success of the 30 by 30 plan. These include:

    • Pursuing a collaborative and inclusive approach to conservation;
    • Conserving America's lands and waters for the benefit of all people;
    • Supporting locally led and designed conservation efforts;
    • Honoring tribal sovereignty and supporting the priorities of tribal nations;
    • Pursuing conservation and restoration approaches that create jobs and support healthy communities;
    • Honoring private property rights and supporting voluntary stewardship efforts;
    • Using science as a guide; and
    • Building on existing conservation tools and strategies.

    Furthermore, the report calls for the federal government to establish an interagency working group led by the U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build an American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, which would provide baseline information on the type and amount of protected lands and waters in the U.S. The Atlas would also serve as a tool to measure the progress of such conservation efforts. As the report indicates, about twelve percent of U.S. lands and twenty-six percent of U.S. waters are currently protected as national parks, wildlife refuges, marine protected areas (MPAs), or some other federal designation. However, of the twenty-six percent of U.S. waters that are protected, only three percent are no-take marine reserves, which provide the highest level of protection. Notably, nearly all of these highly protected areas can be found in the Pacific Region within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

    The Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful report suggests building upon these commonly protected areas through voluntary contributions by farmers, fishermen, and private landowners, rather than relying solely on federally mandated protections. In particular, the report encourages fishery management councils to implement voluntary contributions so conservation efforts reflect regional priorities and achieve balanced stewardship in all coastal regions. While many federal officials and stakeholders have applauded the report’s emphasis on local initiatives and equity, others are skeptical of the plan’s outcomes. Officials who helped prepare the report responded to criticism of its ambiguities and lack of specific details by explaining that this report is only a starting point for the administration’s conservation efforts.

    The America the Beautiful Campaign is one of many Biden Administration initiatives that focuses on environmental justice. This campaign, and the Administration’s recently proposed infrastructure program, are expected to strengthen U.S. climate policy and aid the nation in its fight against the climate crisis.

    Madeline Doten is a guest author for the National Sea Grant Law Center. She is a rising 3L at Stetson University College of Law and can be reached at

  • Madeline Doten
    NSGLC Blog Guest Author

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