WASHINGTON - Among a series of executive orders and memoradums announced today by the White House was a plan to conserve and restore 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. The plan will be critical to restoring the sagebrush steppe, the iconic landscape of the West and home to 350 species of wildlife and plants. In recent years, management of our public lands has been driven by short-term gains, compromising the legacy being left for future generations. Habitat for sage-grouse, mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and burrowing owls has been degraded by invasive species, wildfire, and federal policies that elevate oil and gas development above all other uses. Despite this area’s importance for wildlife and Western economies, it historically has received insufficient funds to adequately address these growing pressures. These lands need to be managed sustainably, ensuring they can continue to meet the needs of Western communities and the wildlife that depend on them. President Biden’s 30 x 30 plan can be the roadmap to conserve and restore the sagebrush ecosystem, forests, coastal areas, and wetlands while creating tens of thousands of good jobs.

“The towns, tribes, ranchers, anglers, and birders across the sagebrush steppe live by a common goal – to leave the landscape better than we found it,” said Brian Rutledge, director of National Audubon Society’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative. “This new commitment is an opportunity to bring us together to show how our lands can not only benefit birds and wildlife, but help support families, communities, and combat the effects of climate change. Achieving this goal will require that we listen to each other, consider what is best for the future, and learn how restoring the land and working the land can happen at the same time.”

“Americans love wildlife. At a time when one-third of our wildlife are threatened with extinction, and sage grouse populations in particular have been on a precipitous decline, this bold plan will conserve and restore critical wildlife habitat while creating jobs and boosting rural economies,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “We applaud this new direction for our cherished public lands and the wildlife and communities that depend on their long-term health.”

“This executive order is great news for the sage-grouse. Pausing oil and gas leasing will give the Interior Department time to make sure this iconic bird’s habitat is protected,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director at the Center for Western Priorities. “The unprecedented 2015 deal to prevent an endangered species listing should be the starting point—but we need scientists to tell us how much damage the Trump years caused to grouse habitat across the West. Secretary-designate Haaland and the Biden administration will need to work fast to save the sage-grouse.”

"We welcome this plan to address our nation’s wildlife crisis. It will be essential that diverse interests in states such as Colorado determine collaboratively how to conserve and restore the sagebrush steppe, migration corridors and other important habitats across a mosaic of ownerships, said Suzanne O'Neill, executive director of Colorado Wildlife Federation.

"We are excited that the Biden administration has taken this important step in conserving our critical sagebrush ecosystem here in Nevada. A large portion of our state relies on a healthy sagebrush habitat to support a range of species including mule deer, antelope and the vulnerable sage grouse,” said Russell Kuhlman, executive director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation. “Protecting these landscapes from oil and gas development and restoring them after threats from invasive species and wildfire is a necessary step to ensure these lands are available to future generations."

“The iconic and imperiled Western sage grouse are a keystone species in the sagebrush sea, and the last four years of mismanagement and industrial development has degraded vast swaths of critical habitat for the bird and the other 350-plus species that call it home,” said Jayson O’Neill, Western Values Project director. “The Biden administration’s 30x30 plan is the path to restoring and protecting critical sage-grouse habitat by building back and growing the one billion dollars of outdoor economic activity and good jobs it supports in the rural West.”

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MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Smelser, matt.smelser@audubon.org

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