Washington, DC, As the Biden-Harris Administration closed the public comment period for the proposed American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, tens of thousands showed support for urgent and ambitious action to protect lands and waters in this country. This new federal tool will help track progress toward initiatives like America the Beautiful and the Administration’s goal of protecting 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030.
During the 60 day public comment period which ended this week, tens of thousands – including thousands of League of Conservation Voters (LCV) members,–voiced support for these investments and called on the administration to meet their ambitious conservation goals in order to protect biodiversity, address the climate crisis, and provide more equitable access to nature.
The Biden Administration also held listening sessions on the Atlas. Residents across the country called for national monument designations for places like Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada and Castner Range in Texas. Many pointed out the unprecedented challenges local communities face and the urgency they feel to protect our rivers, forests, wildlife, and open spaces. Many called for equal access to safe protected natural areas, demanding that everyone deserves a healthy community.
“Atlas must identify a mission gap that pushes this nation to protect millions of new acres in the next eight years,” said Ben Alexandro, Senior Government Affairs Advocate for League of Conservation Voters. “The Atlas must prioritize 3 things: equitable access and partnerships with local communities, including a larger role for tribes in land management, to correct environmental injustices, protecting biodiversity and ecosystem stability and addressing our climate crisis. There are beautiful landscapes and waters ripe for protection to meet this goal. The Biden administration should take the important next steps of designating areas like Avi Kwa Ame and Castner Range as national monuments this year and continue to advance ocean proposals like the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.”
“The Atlas can create a baseline for how and where nature-based climate solutions are critically needed,” said Tonyisha Harris, Chicagoland Conservation Manager for Illinois Environmental Council. “By providing a snapshot of the pressing environmental issues communities are facing, cities like Chicago can implement solutions that address the nuisances of individual community needs.”
“We believe the atlas should accurately represent the complexity of land management and ownership in the West and acknowledge indigenous contributions to reaching the 30×30 goals that are outside of traditional land use designations,” said Greg Peters, Senior Advocate Lands, Water, and Wildlife for Conservation Voters New Mexico. “Our indigenous communities are the original land managers and have a wealth of experience in properly caring for our landscapes.”
On Monday, dozens of public lands organizations, environment and public health advocates, and local education centers, zoos, and aquariums wrote a joint letter to the Department of the Interior. Together, they wrote to support the Atlas citing how it would help ensure federal public lands investments support:
The administration is positioned to finalize an Atlas with strong conservation standards. With only three years left in President Biden’s first term and less than eight years until the 2030 deadline, there is no time to waste to make significant progress toward expanding access to nature and protecting our lands and waters.