Garfield County commissioners formally oppose Biden’s 30×30 climate crisis plan
Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday made official their opposition to President Joe Biden’s plan to conserve 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030 as part of the new administration’s efforts to address climate change.
The Board of County Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the land preservation goal.
In it, they said Garfield County relies heavily on its existing public lands for natural resource development, oil and gas leasing, grazing and recreation.
To cut back on those uses, and to potentially close off even more land from resource development, could have dire impacts on the local economy, they said.
“The 30×30 program, if implemented, is likely to cause significant harm to the economy of Garfield County, and injure the county’s businesses and its citizens by depriving them of access to public lands … and preventing the productive use of these lands’ resources,” the resolution reads.
Included among several executive orders signed by Biden last month to carry out the plan is one suspending new oil and gas leasing on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands.
The commissioners also argue that the president does not have constitutional or statutory authority to permanently preserve 30% of all land and water in the United States.
“I’m opposed to this. To me, this means 30% wilderness, at least on public lands. That’s my concern,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, noting that more than 62% of Garfield County is already made up of federal public land where resource development and other uses are strictly controlled.
Jankovsky said the president’s plan also conflicts with the county’s Federal Lands Natural Resource Coordination Plan and Policies, adopted by the County Commission in September 2020.
That document obligates the federal government to coordinate policies regarding public lands in accordance with the Federal Land Management and Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act, Jankovsky said.
“This resolution is extremely important … and I feel strongly about opposing this (federal policy),” he said.
Read the full resolution:
Commissioners heard from two members of the public objecting to their stance, including one touting the land conservation goals in the president’s plan as a way to make Garfield County more attractive for outdoor recreation and to build up the economy in that way.
Leslie Robinson of Rifle, a Democratic county commissioner candidate last year and chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, requested the commissioners schedule a special evening meeting to allow the public to weigh in on the pros and cons of the 30×30 plan before voting whether to oppose it.
“We need to have a conversation about conservation issues, and a mid-morning meeting right after a holiday is not conducive for people to participate,” Robinson said.
The Republican commissioners, who had previously expressed their opposition to Democrat Biden’s plan at their Feb. 1 meeting, had their minds made up, though.
“Enough is enough,” Commissioner Mike Samson, who won reelection over Robinson in November, said.
“I see the people in the east, saying, yeah, let’s do this,” Samson said. “But it’s not going to affect their states, because they have very little public land compared to the western states.”
Commission Chairman John Martin said western counties and states in particular need to be able to use the nation’s 680 million acres of federal lands for multiple purposes, not just for enjoyment but for commerce.
“I like to use our public lands, and I respect them, but this action taken by the president … is an end run that ignores federal law and policies already in place,” Martin said.
Martin added that, by taking those lands and offshore waters out of production for oil and gas exploration and development, the policy actually hurts conservation efforts because much of the federal money derived from those uses goes back into conservation.
The commissioners’ resolution goes on to state that public lands should continue to be managed under “principles of multiple use and sustained yield, recognizing the nation’s need for domestic sources of minerals, energy, timber, food and fiber …”
Any privately owned lands targeted to meet conservation goals should only be acquired from willing landowners, including mineral rights owners, for fair market value, the commissioners also said.
The commissioners’ resolution acknowledges support for “reasonable national, regional and global greenhouse gas emissions policies and goals …”
However, those efforts should be “comprehensive, practical and cost-effective,” and should not single out specific industries or activities, the resolution states.
“(We) oppose the use of global climate change as an excuse to set aside large tracts of land as preserves or open space to fulfill the 30×30 program’s objectives,” it concludes.
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