What a difference a few weeks make. As I write this, we’re about a month into the Biden-Harris administration, and the conservation landscape has completely changed. With the commitments that the administration has already made to a number of issues important to Audubon, and to you, we collectively have an extraordinary opportunity over the next two years to protect birds and the places they need. We can make meaningful strides to address the climate crisis, and we can make sure the conservation movement and land management practices become more equitable and just, especially for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities.
Our policy team has been working for months to help shape how the different departments in the administration will do business. The United States has officially rejoined the Paris Agreement, and President Biden signed executive orders directing agencies to integrate climate resilience into all government work, move away from drilling for fossil fuels on public lands, and to reverse course on the prior administration’s attempts to gut the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
But one of the most exciting initiatives where we can all make a huge impact is the “30 by 30” movement. The scientific evidence underpinning this movement shows that conserving 30 percent of the planet’s land and 30 percent of its water is required to protect roughly 75 percent of Earth’s species. In the process, we can slow climate change by storing carbon in plants and soil. All of this allows us to nurture biodiversity while ensuring that people everywhere have clean air and water.
The sheer size of Indigenous lands and the biodiversity found in them—and the critical role they’ll play in achieving the 30 by 30 goal—mean Indigenous rights, traditional knowledge, and land stewardship are being built into conservation planning. Audubon’s Boreal Conservation program in Canada is an example of how to support Indigenous stewardship of the land in an area that is also critical to dozens of species of birds and other animals. We have been working with First Nations communities in Pimachiowin Aki, the largest UNESCO World Heritage site in North America, to help build climate resilience into the lands that both they and boreal birds need to survive.
The 30 by 30 movement has quietly been gaining traction over the past five years. With a new administration, it is an ambition that all conservationists can support. Whether your interest is lots of wetlands for ducks, plenty of forest cover for warblers, or solutions to mitigate ongoing climate change, it’s the kind of moonshot goal that embraces all of our values. It challenges us to go big and to do it equitably. That’s the work of a lifetime.
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This piece originally ran in the Spring 2021 issue as “An Era of Opportunity.” To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.