America the Beautiful: Our Work to Conserve at Least 30% of Lands and Waters by 2030

6/28/2021

Communities deserve fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, healthy and dependable economies, and a livable planet. That’s why President Biden launched the America the Beautiful initiative, a call to action to support conservation and restoration efforts across America, wherever communities wish to safeguard the lands and waters they know and love. 

The initiative sets the nation’s first-ever goal to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. The 10-year locally led and nationally scaled campaign will lift up efforts to conserve, connect, and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife upon which we all depend.  

Read further to learn more about how this whole-of-government effort can help combat the climate and nature crises and advance environmental justice.  

River through green valley at Glacier National Park.
Haystack Falls at Glacier National Park in Montana. Photo by National Park Service. 

What is America the Beautiful?

America the Beautiful is an effort to conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters over the next decade in order to give every person in America — present and future — the chance to experience the freedoms, joys, bounties, and opportunities that the nation’s rich and vibrant lands and waters provide.  

This community-led and nationally scaled initiative is a fitting and needed response to converging challenges of climate change, loss of natural areas and wildlife, and inequitable access to nature. It is time to do right by the lands and waters that sustain every community in every part of the country: returning American wildlife to abundance; safeguarding the health and productivity of the nation’s working lands and waters; giving every child the chance to play and explore in a safe, close-to-home park; honoring and supporting the natural and cultural resource priorities of Tribal Nations; and far more. Rising to meet this conservation challenge will improve the nation’s resilience against climate change and strengthen the foundation of America’s economy. 

Bison stand in a golden field at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park has become a beacon for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts with its abundant wildlife, scenic drives and miles of trails. Photo by Brad Starry (www.sharetheexperience.org).

How was the America the Beautiful initiative developed? 

The goal of conserving 30% of lands and waters by 2030 echoes the recommendations of scientists who encourage world leaders to work together to conserve or restore a substantial portion of our planet to stem the extinction crisis, safeguard water and food supplies, absorb carbon pollution, and reduce the risks of future pandemics and other global health emergencies. 

Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, directed the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Council on Environmental Quality to gather input from a wide range of stakeholders on how to develop an ambitious and inclusive national conservation effort that honors America’s conservation traditions.  

Our report was informed by dozens of listening sessions, and feedback from hundreds of local, state, federal elected officials, Tribal leaders, leaders on equity and justice in conservation policy, environmental advocacy organizations, hunting and fishing organizations, farming and ranching organizations, trade associations, forestry representatives, outdoor recreation businesses and users, the seafood industry, and others. The outreach included virtual meetings and listening sessions, as well as review of written letters and submissions. 

Sunset over green prairie at Badlands National Park.
Badlands National Park protects rugged buttes, pinnacles and spires surrounded by a mixed-grass prairie. Photo by William Green (www.sharetheexperience.org).

What’s next?

Every community in the United States has its own relationship with nearby lands and waters, and every community is working in some way to conserve the places that matter the most to it. The federal government can play a role in helping local communities achieve their own conservation priorities and vision. Locally and regionally designed approaches can play a key role in conserving resources and be tailored to meet the priorities and needs of local communities and the nation. 

Indeed, there are hundreds of locally supported conservation and restoration efforts already underway in communities across America — in line with the principles and vision outlined in the report — that can be advanced over the coming decade to strengthen our economy, fight climate change, address environmental injustice, and improve outcomes for fish, wildlife, and people.  

The report identifies six areas of early focus where the Biden-Harris administration can encourage and advance locally supported conservation efforts across the nation. They include:  

  • Creating more parks and safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities. 
  • Supporting Tribally led conservation and restoration priorities. 
  • Expanding collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors.
  • Increasing access for outdoor recreation. 
  • Incentivizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, ranchers, farmers, and forest owners. 
  • Creating jobs by investing in restoration and resilience. 
  • The recommendations serve as a starting point for additional public input and conversations to inform the nation’s progress toward the President’s goal for conservation over the next decade. 
Orca at Kenai Fjords National Park.
Kenai Fjords National Park. Photo by Jim Pfeiffenberger, National Park Service.

How can I support these efforts?

Decades of land and water stewardship by ranchers, farmers, fishers, hunters, private property owners, conservation organizations, Tribal Nations, territories, state and local governments, and others have demonstrated that the most effective and enduring conservation strategies are those that reflect the priorities, needs, and perspectives of the families and communities that know, live, work, and care for the lands and waters. 

The America the Beautiful initiative aims to celebrate, leverage and enhance all of this remarkable work, and seek to inspire others with stories of on-the-ground collaborations and successes. As we move forward, please continue to support the projects going on in your area, share your experiences and ideas as the Department of the Interior and our federal partners continue to listen and learn, and help to spread the message about the work.

Sunset over the rocky shores of Acadia National Park.
Acadia National Park. Photo by National Park Service.

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