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What '30 by 30' is not 

The 30 by 30 plan is a big deal, as I've mentioned a time or two in this space. The Biden administration's recognition of the need to conserve 30 percent of the nation's natural lands by 2030 to head off mass extinction and the worst effects of climate change entails a big plan, and it is an axiom of Newtonian political law that the announcement of any large-scale plan shall meet pushback.

A local specimen of that pushback is on view in the August issue of Atascadero News Magazine. The factually vague nature of the piece is telegraphed by multiple references to the 30 by 30 plan as "the bill" and "the Assembly bill." But the only 30 by 30 legislation extant is an attempt to overturn Biden's executive order, introduced by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado), based on the fear that "Biden's executive order would take working farm and ranch land out of production," as reported by Brownfield – Ag News for America.

"Our legislation ... would stop that right there in its tracks and say, 'No, you're not going to come take our land,'" Marshall said. "It's constitutionally protected, by the way. We don't want the government taking our land and we don't want them forcing productive land into conservation."

Two consecutive sentences in the Brownfield article underscore the disconnect between the whipped-up fears and the reality of the actual plan:

"During a press call in early May, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the plan emphasizes and rewards voluntary conservation efforts. But Marshall said using eminent domain to take private land is wrong."

"Eminent domain" appears nowhere in the administration's proposal, Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful. "Voluntary" appears 18 times. The report's eight foundational principles include "honor private property rights and support the voluntary stewardship efforts of private landowners and fishers," which notes that, "Efforts to conserve and restore America's lands and waters must respect the rights of private property owners. Such efforts must also build trust among all communities and stakeholders, including by recognizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of private landowners and the science-based approaches of fishery managers."

Which is why Sam Kieffer, spokesman for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said, "The report goes out of its way to recognize the concerns raised by Farm Bureau and agriculture in general."

Meanwhile, California is advancing its own 30 by 30 plan, and has spent the last four months asking everyone in the state for input at online town halls. Here are a few local projects that could benefit from 30 by 30, based on what the plan really is and what it can really do:

• Rehabilitate the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area: The ODSVRA is part of one of the largest intact coastal dune ecosystems in the world, containing many rare habitats that support threatened or endangered plants and animals. That's largely why the California Coastal Commission has ordered the removal of off-highway vehicles from the park, giving the California Deptartment of Parks and Recreation a deadline of Jan. 1, 2024, to do so. Several throw-everything-at-the-wall lawsuits from the off-road lobby aside, most residents are clear that it is time to look to the future, begin to restore the dunes, and turn the region into a prosperous, environmentally conscious California coastal community.

• Preserve the Diablo Canyon Lands: 12,000 acres of pristine, undeveloped California coastal land owned by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company will be up for grabs upon the shutdown and decommissioning of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant a few years hence. The California Public Utilities Commission must be persuaded to require the attachment of a conservation easement to the lands. The Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club is part of the coalition that drafted a Framework for Conservation of the Diablo Canyon Lands and submitted it to the CPUC in May.

• Add the Smith and Klamath rivers to the National Estuarine Research Reserve System: Established in 1972, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a network of 29 sites dedicated to the science-based management of coastal and estuarine environments. Two prime candidates: The estuary of the Smith River—the only remaining undammed river system in California and a salmon and steelhead stronghold—and the Klamath River, which is about to undergo the most significant dam removal project in U.S. history, allowing salmon to once again run the length of the river. The Yurok tribe, dependent on salmon for food and income, would co-manage the Klamath River NERRS and the restoration process to inform similar efforts elsewhere. The Tolowa tribe would co-manage the Smith River NERRS to maintain the river's reputation as one of the cleanest in the world. These two reserves would represent two ends of a spectrum: A very damaged river on the brink of recovery and a very healthy river that needs to stay that way, in the era of climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's budget for the current fiscal year includes funds for the expansion of the NERRS. California should collaborate with the administration's priority of expanding the system and request designation of the Smith and Klamath estuaries.

For real. Δ

Andrew Christie is the director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Send comments through clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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