Since President Biden signed an executive order, known as the 30 by 30 plan on January 27th, a whole host of critics, including farm organizations, conservative radio and TV commentators, Republican politicians and agricultural spokes persons have claimed that the plan was aimed at taking away land from farmers under the guise of land conservation. All of this push-back reminds me of the game, called telephone, that we played at parties when I was a kid. We’d all sit in a circle, and the first player would whisper a few word, like, “Tom just got a brown horse with three white stockings that he calls buster.” As this story was passed along through the circle, it might end up garbled to the point that Buster’s horse Mike, was white and only had three legs. The lesson we learned was that information you receive by word of mouth is not always accurate. In fact, if you don’t receive information directly from the source, there’s a good chance that at least part of the message is garbled. This principal also applies to social media, where misinformation is often passed on, not to a dozen people in a circle, but to thousands of users, some of whom become incensed by the falsehoods that are embedded among the facts. Last week, administration officials outlined a more detailed plan of the 30 by 30 executive order which is now called “America the Beautiful.” The administration calls it a 10 year, locally-led and voluntary nationwide effort to conserve, connect and restore 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030, using science as a guide to create more parks in nature-deprived communities, support tribally led conservation and restoration priorities, expand collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors, increase access for outdoor recreation, create jobs by investing in restoration and resilience, and incentivizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of fishers, farmers and ranchers. While the plan is aimed at degraded land, some Republican lawmakers are concerned that the government could designate strict protections on some land that remains productive. Currently, nearly 26% of coastal waters are protected by conservation practices, but only 12% of the U.S. land mass is considered to be conserved. Some critics contend that to reach the 30% target for land, it would require adding an additional 440 million acres, an area that’s twice the size of Texas. But Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack contends that the plan honors private property rights and supports the voluntary stewardship efforts of private landowners, and the report specifically notes, “Efforts to conserve and restore America’s lands and waters must respect the rights of private property owners. Such efforts must also build trust among all communities and stakeholders, including by recognizing and rewarding the voluntary conservation efforts of private landowners.”
According to USDA Crop progress reports, over 50% of pastures and ranges in the Four Corners region are considered to be in poor shape. 64% of Arizona’s grazing land in very poor condition. Considering these rating at the beginning of May, ranchers are concerned that they are looking at a long, hot summer this year.
Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”