Garfield County opposing ‘30 x 30’ executive order

Resolution questions President Biden’s authority to conserve 30 percent of public lands by 2030

Feb. 17, 2021

Garfield County is opposing an executive order by President Joe Biden that would permanently preserve 30 percent of public land and water by 2030, effectively removing 680 million acres from multiple use management practices. A county resolution opposing Section 216 of Executive Order 14008 (Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Aboard) notes that 62 percent of Garfield County is public land, which is already conserved through federal ownership.

If implemented, Section 216 or “30 x 30” will conflict with the county’s “Federal Lands Natural Resource Coordination Plan and Polices,” which was adopted in September 2020. Under that document, the federal government is obligated to coordinate its policy development with Garfield County. This is also required by the Federal Land Management and Policy Act (FLPMA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The move unilaterally ignores local input on public lands within Garfield County.

“To me, this means 30 percent wilderness, at least on public lands, and that’s my concern,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “In our public lands coordination polices, it’s noted that ‘Wilderness’ imposes restrictions that often include reduced access and diminished use or elimination of mining, oil and gas development, grazing, hunting, recreation, and access to these lands. These activities substantially contribute to the local economy and the county’s ability to properly fund and serve the public needs. All consideration of ‘Wilderness’ designations must be approved by Congress and coordinated with Garfield County.”

The resolution questions the president’s authority, whether constitutional or statutory, to mandate that 30 percent of these public lands be preserved under an executive order. It also notes that preservation status doesn’t necessarily protect the areas it intends to conserve.

“Designating lands as wilderness does not assure its preservation. Left in an undisturbed or natural state, these lands are highly susceptible to wildland wildfires, insect infestation and disease, all of which exacerbate greenhouse emissions which adversely impact global climate change,” the county’s resolution notes.

“This executive order is not a congressional action, it’s an administrative action by the president of the United States and I’m opposed to it,” Jankovsky added, noting that the county has supported the CORE Act, which is a congressional bill and doesn’t establish Wilderness, but reduces oil and gas drilling in the Thompson Divide area.

The resolution also highlights negative impacts the executive order would have 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 resolution passed unanimously, 3-0. The Board of County Commissioners has also requested a meeting with the Department of Interior within 60 days to discuss its position on the 30 x 30 program.

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