Creek with Middle Mountain in the background, Colorado in Colorado.

Board submits concerns over Department of Interior’s atlas plan

March 2, 2022

Garfield County has provided formal comments to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) on efforts to develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas. The DOI has requested information from state and local governments as part of its effort to produce the atlas, which is designed to support President Biden’s 30 X 30 initiative.

If realized, the initiative would permanently preserve 30 percent of public and private land and water by 2030, via executive order, effectively removing 680 million acres from multiple use management practices.

The Board of County Commissioners’ (BOCC) letter focuses on three key points of concern with the atlas: that it should be evaluated and its potential effects disclosed through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process; that the atlas and 30 X 30 are inadequately described, precluding effective and informed public comments; and that the DOI must clarify that the atlas is a non-regulatory document that will not affect the rights of private property owners, or management and use of federal lands and waters.

“A presidential order to act, as with the exercise of any governmental power, must stem from an act of Congress, or from the Constitution itself, or a combination of the two,” the board’s letter reads. “No such authority has been established.”

In early 2021, the BOCC passed a resolution opposing Section 216 of Executive Order 14008 (Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Aboard), or 30 X 30, which would have negative impacts in Garfield County, likely causing “significant harm” to the local economy by preventing productive use of resources on those lands, and depriving residents of access to public lands.

“The NEPA process gives the public and the local community and local governments the chance to comment on the process and act as cooperating agencies with a say on what moves forward,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “One of the concerns we have with the atlas is there has been no definition of what ‘conserve’ means in this context to Garfield County, in which the federal government already owns 63 percent of the land.”

He added that 30 X 30 would be the largest land inventory change since the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), which was enacted through Congress. The comments letter, which can be read online, was approved unanimously, 3-0.

“This is an attempt by the Biden Administration, and the people who back them, to take public lands out of the many uses they were designated for,” added Commissioner Mike Samson. “The concept of multiple use is destroyed through this process. This is a land grab by the federal government.”

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