WASHINGTON (May 20, 2021) – The Department of Agriculture released a 90-day progress report today detailing how the department will implement President Biden’s government-wide executive order to address the climate crisis, which was issued a week after he took office. The National Audubon Society had previously submitted comments to the USDA to consider how farmland, rangelands, and forests can be supported in optimizing the potential of working lands while also conserving critical habitat for birds and wildlife.
“Many of the places that birds need to survive include working lands like farms, ranches, and forests, so their fate is bound to them,” said Melinda Cep, vice president of natural solutions and working lands at the National Audubon Society. “These same places can be valuable climate solutions, so it’s a necessary step forward for USDA to recognize the role that agriculture and forestry play in creating a cleaner future.”
The report emphasizes the need to adopt practices that not only reduce emissions on working lands, but also help protect those lands from climate-related threats. Audubon is encouraged by the department’s outreach efforts on the executive order and commitment to outreach in the report, as well as the inclusion of many recommendations from Audubon. These recommendations include valuing landscape-scale conservation, leveraging existing programs with proven track records, improving outreach and technical assistance, and better integrating equity and justice.
A 2019 Audubon report found that unless the rate of climate change and global temperature rise is slowed to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, two-thirds of North American bird species will be vulnerable to extinction.
“We appreciate these initial commitments and we recognize that these laudable goals must be backed up by meaningful actions,” said Cep. “We look forward to working with USDA to ensure that these important opportunities are realized.”
Key takeaways from the 90-day progress report include:
- Highlights the opportunity to leverage existing USDA conservation programs, which have histories of success but have been significantly oversubscribed
- Highlights the role of forests as a climate solution, both through maintaining existing forest cover, and by changing managing practices to incorporate climate mitigation and resilience into decision-making processes
- Identifies the need to address history of systemic discrimination against Black farmers and other socially disadvantaged producers, including removing barriers to access USDA programs and increasing consultation
- Identifies the need to strengthen education, outreach, and technical assistance programs and to invest in research and development that will guide program implementation
- Emphasizes the need to support increased adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency in rural communities
- Identifies the role of USDA in strengthening voluntary carbon markets by reducing barriers to entry for producers. As it implements this important work, USDA should continue to seek to improve the reliability of these markets, through cost-effective monitoring, reporting, and verification systems and protocols that ensure ‘additionality’ of carbon savings and prevent leakage out of markets
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.
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