Momentum to Protect
America the Beautiful

Community Leadership to Protect 30% of America’s Lands and Waters by 2030

Across the country, people are working to protect parks and nature in a race against the clock. Scientists say we need to protect at least 30 percent of our lands, waters, and ocean around the world by 2030 — 30×30 — to save nature and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. This dire warning has inspired action that prioritizes locally led conservation, including rural and coastal communities, Tribal Nations, and private landowners, and it has spurred new opportunities to create a more equitable and inclusive vision for conservation. 

From California to Maine to Florida and places in between, decision makers in state capitols, county and city halls, and Tribal governments are listening to the communities who know these places best, and they are championing 30×30 priorities that will invest in the next generation of conservation.

These state and local efforts complement and build momentum for federal action. In the first weeks of the Biden-Harris administration, the president committed to protecting 30 percent of our country’s lands, waters, and ocean by 2030 in Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which led to America the Beautiful, a wide-ranging initiative for the next decade that will focus on voluntary and locally-led steps “to conserve, connect, and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife upon which we all depend.” Federal action will reinforce and support the community-led conservation being championed all across America. 

This special report shines a spotlight on recent state and local conservation leadership, including: 

The Conservation Voter Movement, a unique network of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and more than 30 state partners, is proud to work with partner organizations, elected officials, community leaders, and the public to protect our lands and waters and expand access to the outdoors. The varied approaches to conservation emphasize the incredible and growing support for protecting 30 percent of our natural world by 2030.

Growing Support for & Commitments to 30×30

Officials representing communities in 45 states and Washington, DC support a national 30×30 goal, including 70 bipartisan mayors and more than 450 bipartisan state and local officials. Tribal organizations representing over 50 federally recognized tribes signed a “Tribal Leader Statement on 30×30 Policy,” demonstrating support for 30×30 efforts and emphasizing the opportunity to strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship while upholdingTribal sovereignty and self-determination.  

Leaders in at least 14 states have worked to turn support for 30×30 goals into action. Governors, state agency directors, state legislators, mayors, and other local officials are pushing plans and proposals to protect our lands and waters.

State Executive Action

California In October 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order that sets a goal for California to protect 30 percent of the state’s lands and ocean in the fight against climate change.
Hawaii In 2016, Hawaii launched the Sustainable Hawaii Initiative, part of which committed to effectively manage 30 percent of its nearshore marine environment by 2030.
Maine In December 2020, Governor Janet Mills unveiled her Climate Action Plan, which includes a commitment to increase the total acreage of conserved lands in the state to 30 percent by 2030.
Michigan In July 2021 the Michigan Department of Natural Resources released a new proposed strategy for the 4.6 million acres of state forests, parks, trails, game and wildlife areas, and other public lands, which references the role these places play toward achieving 30×30. 
Virginia  In 2020, the state updated ConserveVirgina, a data-driven, land conservation strategy that preserves high conservation value lands across the state.

Nevada Legislature: In May, Nevada lawmakers made their state the first in the country to pass a resolution supporting the national 30×30 goal, urging state and local agencies to work cooperatively with U.S. agencies in order to protect 30 percent of lands and waters in the state by 2030. Assembly Joint Resolution No. 3 was sponsored by Assembly Members Cecilia González, Howard Watts, Steve Yeager, Lesley Cohen, Natha Anderson, Tracy Brown-May, Edgar Flores, Brittney Miller, Rochelle Nguyen and Selena Torres as well as Senator Fabian Donate.

Illinois General Assembly: House Bill 3928 created the Illinois 30×30 Conservation Taskforce to host listening sessions throughout the state to identify ways in which the campaign can be adopted. The taskforce is a bipartisan effort, gathering input from relevant agencies, private groups, and non-profit organizations. The culmination of the listening sessions will result in the drafting and filing of a report to the General Assembly and governor with feedback that was collected. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Thomas M. Bennett, Tim Butler, Robyn Gabel, Dagmara Avelar, Justin Slaughter, Stephanie A. Kifowit, Joe Sosnowski, Mike Murphy, Sue Scherer, Suzanne Ness and Joyce Mason as well as Senators Jason A. Barickman, Melinda Bush, David Koehler, Craig Wilcox, Laura M. Murphy and Chapin Rose.

Additional 30×30 Legislation

Michigan Lawmakers introduced a bipartisan resolution urging the governor to establish a statewide goal of conserving at least 30 percent of land and 30 percent of water in the state by the year 2030.
New Jersey Republican state Senator Kip Bateman announced plans to introduce 30×30 legislation in an opinion piece.
New York The state Senate passed legislation that would set a goal for the state to conserve at least 30 percent of New York’s land by 2030.
South Carolina A bipartisan group of state legislators introduced the “South Carolina Thirty-By-Thirty Conservation Act” to assemble an interagency task force to develop a plan to meet a statewide 30×30 goal.

City of Boise, Idaho: Mayor Lauren McLean recently led the city in creating a set of 30×30-related goals that make sense for the community, protecting nature and improving the city’s quality of life. The 2030 goals include using science-based land management actions to build resilient ecosystems, increasing actively managed native habitat areas, raising a total of $30 million to protect more open space, and increasing tree canopy cover in Boise. 

In the Mountain West, where there is a higher percentage of federally managed public lands, at least 10 local governments have passed resolutions in support of 30×30. 

Innovative Measures for Local Opportunities

Communities face different conservation challenges, which creates opportunities to develop innovative solutions that fit local needs. Here are some examples of recent conservation progress at the state level. 

Connecticut’s Long Island Sound Blue Plan
After many years of research and negotiations, this spring, the General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution No. 53, introduced by the Environment Committee, to adopt the Long Island Sound Blue Plan, which will help identify and protect places of traditional use and ecological significance. The Blue Plan is a science-based planning tool that integrates all environmental, recreational and commercial uses of Connecticut’s most valuable and cherished waterbody, and will minimize current and future conflicts in Long Island Sound. The legislature also authorized $718 million in loans and grants for sewage treatment upgrades, green infrastructure, and other clean water efforts that will directly affect water quality in the Sound.

Maryland’s Tree Solutions Now Act  
This April, the General Assembly passed House Bill 991, sponsored by Delegate James Gilchrist, which funds programs to plant five million trees over the next 10 years, including 500,000 trees in underserved urban communities. It also temporarily allows jurisdictions to continue “conservation banking” to meet reforestation requirements and ensures the legislature, in future years, will enact a comprehensive forest conservation policy based on the results of a key forest assessment study. This state-level action follows the passage of several local and county bills over the last two years, which will significantly reduce forest loss and, over time, create thousands of acres of permanently conserved forest lands. 

Washington’s Conservation Works 
Every two years, the Environmental Priorities Coalition — made up of more than 20 statewide organizations working to safeguard the state’s environment and the health of communities in the legislature — works hard to develop a smart, effective, and ambitious package of investments for the capital budget. The Coalition’s 2021 Conservation Works priority successfully protected essential environmental programs from budget cuts and promoted investments in proven projects that tackle climate change, create good jobs, support salmon and orca recovery, and help communities chart their own course for a better future.

Making Access More Equitable & Advancing Racial Justice

The Conservation Voter Movement is working with partners to make access to nature more equitable and preserve places that better reflect the racial diversity of our country. Seventy-four percent of communities of color and 70 percent of low-income communities in the contiguous United States live in nature-deprived areas

Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program
House Bill 1318, sponsored by Representatives Leslie Herod and David Ortiz and Senators Leroy Garcia and Sonya Jaquez Lewis, created the Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program and was signed by Governor Jared Polis this June. The grant program will support organizations providing outdoor education and recreation opportunities for Colorado’s underserved youth. This program will be funded at $3 million per year in addition to potential private donations and contributions. 

New Mexico Outdoor Equity Fund 
The state legislature added $1.5 million to the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division (ORD) Outdoor Equity Fund and Outdoor Recreation Trails programs this year. The Outdoor Equity Fund, established in 2019, supports “transformative outdoor experiences that foster stewardship and respect for our lands, waters, and cultural heritage.” The increased funding will make it much easier for ORD to meet federal funding match requirements and fund more projects aimed at expanding equitable access to the outdoors.  

Documenting and Preserving Historic African American Sites in Virginia 
House Bill 1928, led by Delegate Lashrecse Aird, provides expanded access to Virginia’s Easement Program and tools to protect underrepresented history, such as African American cemeteries and churches, tribal burial grounds and other places important to Indigenous communities. Virginia is home to a wealth of important historical sites and culturally important places, but the way in which these sites have been preserved and protected has not always been equitable. The budget, as amended, also includes $250,000 to fund data collection and outreach activities by paid Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) interns who will work to expand Virginia’s historical property catalogue to include underrepresented African American and Indigenous communities.

More Funding for More Visitors

Parks and public lands have been more important than ever during the global pandemic, providing opportunities for people to get outside and supporting outdoor recreation, tourism, and rural economies. The National Park Service reported that 15 parks set new visitation records in 2020, despite prolonged closures for parts of the year.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces parks funding proposals. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signing pro-conservation bills.

Conclusion

The significant progress at the state and local level outlined in this report is worth celebrating. The Conservation Voter Movement has been proud to work with leaders and advocates in communities across the country to build support for 30×30 initiatives at all levels of government as well as the policies and programs that better meet local preservation opportunities; make access to nature more equitable and advance racial justice; and increase funding for conservation at a time when more people than ever are exploring the great outdoors. 

However, the work is far from finished. To reach the 30×30 conservation goals and make access to nature more equitable, we must build on this state and local foundation and are counting on the Biden-Harris administration to play a leadership role in protecting America the Beautiful. It’s going to take all of us, working at all levels of government,  to solve the nature crisis — from public officials and decision makers to private landowners, ranchers, and farmers to coworkers, family members, and neighbors. Sign up to show your support for protecting 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 and receive updates on future opportunities to make your voice heard.