In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed in order to protect and preserve lands for future generations. There has recently been a push to protect 30% of our lands by 2030. While 28% of U.S. land is owned by the federal government, only 12% is managed in a way that is working towards this 30% by 2030 goal. This goal is being advocated for at the national level as well as the state level. Nationally, the Biden Administration committed to this goal in January when they also issued an executive order to address the climate crisis and pause new oil and gas leases on public lands. There are currently 289 million acres protected, and an additional 440 million acres will need to be protected in order to reach this goal. The pledge by the Biden administration for this 30% by 2030 goal is to “protect biodiversity, slow extinction rates, and help leverage natural climate solutions.” This commitment has been met with support from conservation groups and scientists, as well as signed support from 70 mayors across 29 states and Washington D.C.
Commitments to this goal are also being made at the state level. S.6191/A.5390-A (Kaminsky/Fahy) would set a goal of preserving 30% of New York State’s land by 2030. The bill would direct DEC to make these plans while placing an emphasis on food security and sustainability, protection and restoration of biodiversity, climate resiliency, expanded access to nature for all communities, and economic benefits. This would be aimed at preserving undeveloped land as open spaces, and would look for these opportunities in coastal areas in order to help buffer the effects of storm surges while also protecting wildlife.
Preserving public lands is crucial in the fight against climate change. There are many ecosystem services that these lands can provide such as protecting watersheds that provide clean water for communities, helping to sequester carbon and cycle nutrients, provide habitat, and provide recreational opportunities. Protecting these lands in order to preserve habitat for wildlife is only going to become more important as the biodiversity crisis continues. There are an estimated one million species at risk of going extinct due to climate change, and working towards preserving 30% of land by 2030 will help provide refuge for these species. This push for the “30 by 30” target is backed by scientists and nonprofits that agree this is a necessary step in preserving biodiversity and combating the climate crisis.
The New York League of Conservation Voters continues to advocate for land conservation, wildlife protection, and equitable access to nature. These efforts to increase the amount of land protected nationwide and at the state level are necessary to move forward into a more sustainable future, which is why we support legislation to conserve 30% of land by 2030.