NOAA seeks public input on ‘30 by 30’ conservation goals

By Brielle Manzolillo

A monk seal under water in Hawaii. Credit: NOAA/PIFSC/HMSRP

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced two public hearings to solicit input on the agency’s role in meeting the administration’s “30 by 30” conservation pledge.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration released the “America the Beautiful” initiative, a broad conservation plan that aims to conserve 30% of all U.S. lands and water by 2030, known commonly as the “30 by 30” initiative. The plan emphasizes voluntary conservation efforts and federal partnerships with states, landowners and tribes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has planned two virtual public listening sessions—one on Nov. 8 and the other on Nov. 16—to gather public comments on how the agency can best use its existing authorities to address climate change and inequitable access to the outdoors through conservation of the nation’s coasts, oceans and Great Lakes. The agency is also seeking input on how to track and identify areas that should count toward the “30 by 30” goal.

The America the Beautiful Interagency Working Group—co-chaired by the heads of the U.S. Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Council on Environmental Quality is currently developing a database for tracking progress on the conservation pledge. The database, known as the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, will calculate physical terrestrial acreage, including public and private lands, and nautical areas that could contribute to this conservation goal. The atlas is also intended to measure overall negative impacts to land and water, such as how the conserved areas curb effects of climate change. The atlas is expected to be ready for stakeholder and public viewing in 2022.

Last month, DOI also held a series of public comment sessions to gather input on how the agency can improve public access to lands for underserved communities in cooperation with the administration’s conservation goal.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has previously held five roundtable meetings with stakeholders, including members of the fishing industry. The agency also plans to release a progress report on the conservation initiative at the end of 2021 that will include updates on collaboration, land-cover changes, and the condition of fish and wildlife habitats and populations. The report will include a synthesis of public comments and an overview of the agency’s strategy going forward.


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