The Biden Administration recently announced the “America the Beautiful” Initiative. On May 6, 2021, they outlined a vision for how the United States can work collaboratively to conserve and restore the land, water and wildlife that support and sustain the nation. The recommendations are contained in a report, outlining a locally led and voluntary nationwide conservation goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030.
In support of the “America the Beautiful” initiative, the Illinois 30×30 Coalition has been established to advocate for state policy to align with this goal and to create an equitable, biodiverse, and climate-resilient Illinois for everyone.
In this blog, we will review the initiative, introduce the coalition, and provide an overview of the involvement of The Conservation Foundation (TCF).
“America the Beautiful” Initiative
The “America the Beautiful” initiative has a conservation goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. This idea has been around for a while, but there is now more support at the Federal level.
The report calls for a decade-long effort to support locally led and voluntary conservation and restoration efforts across public, private, and Tribal lands and waters. This in turn will create jobs and strengthen the economy’s foundation; tackle the climate and nature crises; and address inequitable access to the outdoors. The report outlines eight principles to guide the nationwide effort, including a pursuit of collaborative approaches; a commitment to supporting the voluntary conservation efforts of farmers, ranchers, and fishers; and honoring of Tribal sovereignty and private property rights.
The Illinois 30×30 Coalition
The Illinois 30×30 Coalition advocates for state policy to align with the national 30×30 campaign (in support of the “America the Beautiful” initiative) to create an equitable, biodiverse, and climate resilient Illinois for everyone.
The coalition includes environmental organizations, outdoor recreation advocates, conservation land trusts, water and land stewards, community-based organizations and the agricultural community. These groups will be collaborating on a shared goal of supporting biodiversity and mitigating climate change in ways that also advance racial justice.
The team thinks it is time to create a “new conservation climate table” to facilitate collaboration around nature-based climate solutions. Illinois is only at 4%, so whatever we can do in our state will contribute to the overall national goal.
The coalition is in the early stages of development but has already identified the following goals:
- Prevent further extinction of terrestrial and freshwater species in Illinois.
- Incorporate science-based metrics to prioritize restoration investments, measure progress, and ensure improvements in biodiversity.
- Create community decision-making processes around land use and zoning that elevate the voices of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), low-income, and rural communities.
- Establish standard definitions of terms “conservation”, “protection”, and “restoration”.
- Improve education and adoption of land and water conservation practices that create suitable and sustainable environments for native IL species.
- Ensure that federal agencies work in conjunction with public and private partners, and IL state agencies to further our joint conservation goals.
- Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve ecosystem and community climate resilience.
- Statewide buy-in for sustainable agricultural stewardship practices.
TCF is a member of the Illinois 30×30 Coalition. We will continue to do what we have always done – adding to the 35,000 acres we have already helped to protect, and preserve as much land and waterways as possible, in strategic locations, that benefit the most people.
TCF preserves and restores land and water using best conservation practices. Our efforts have resulted in habitat protection, green-house gas emission reduction, ecosystem services such as physical and mental health benefits (see the TCF Nature Rx web page for additional details), and communities more resilient to climate change.
Through its numerous actions with other conservation organizations (e.g., its affiliation with Chicago Living Corridors), Education and Outreach activities, and Nature Rx program, TCF solidly contributes to the goals of the Illinois 30×30 Coalition and the overall efforts of the “America the Beautiful” Initiative.
Ready to fight for land and water conservation? Contact your local federal and state representative about getting funding for Illinois. And why not become a member of TCF today? After all, conservation is what TCF does every day. We can all do more together than we can alone. Join our collective momentum – Become a member today!
By Steve Stawarz, Oak Brook
DuPage County Advisory Council Member