SalmonState Hopes POTUS “America The Beautiful” Plan Includes Protecting Tongass NF And Bristol Bay (Updated)
First, here’s the official Department of the Interior release:
WASHINGTON – Today the Biden-Harris administration outlined a vision for how the United States can work collaboratively to conserve and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife that support and sustain the nation. The recommendations are contained in a report released today, outlining a locally led and voluntary nationwide conservation goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
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 in order to create jobs and strengthen the economy’s foundation; tackle the climate and nature crises; and address inequitable access to the outdoors.
The report, submitted to the National Climate Task Force, was developed by the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. It outlines eight principles that should 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 President’s challenge is a call to action to support locally led conservation and restoration efforts of all kinds and all over America, wherever communities wish to safeguard the lands and waters they know and love,” write Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory in the report. “Doing so will not only protect our lands and waters but also boost our economy and support jobs nationwide.”
Based on feedback gathered in the Administration’s first 100 days, the report identifies six priority areas for the administration’s early focus, investments, and collaboration:
- 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 projects and initiatives, including the Civilian Climate Corps.
The Biden-Harris administration is already taking steps to support outdoor recreation and equitable access to the outdoors:
- In late April, USDA expanded the Conservation Reserve Program by offering new incentives, higher rental rates, and more focused attention on sensitive lands with a goal of enrolling 4 million acres and capturing 3.6 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in this voluntary conservation program.
- This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal for the largest expansion in recent history of hunting and sport fishing opportunities for game species?across?2.1 million acres at?90 national wildlife refuges and?on the lands of?one?national fish hatchery.?
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced the expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, nearly tripling the size of the sanctuary and protecting 14 reefs and banks that are habitat for recreationally important fish.
- In the coming days, the National Park Service will announce $150 million in funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program, which helps build parks in underserved communities.
- NOAA is working in partnership with the State of Connecticut to create a living classroom for education, research, and recreation by designating a National Estuarine Research Reserve in Long Island Sound. The final designation paperwork is expected by January 2022, which will make it the 30th estuary reserve in the national system.
To help measure and track progress toward the nation’s first conservation goal, the report calls for the establishment of an interagency working group, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and NOAA in partnership with other land and ocean management agencies. The working group will develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, a tool that will better reflect the voluntary contributions of farmers, ranchers, forest owners and private landowners; the contributions of fishery management councils; and other existing conservation designations on lands and waters across federal, state, local, Tribal, and private?lands?and waters across the nation.
In line with Executive Order 14008, the agencies developed the recommendations after hearing from Tribal leaders, governors and their staff, Members of Congress and their staff, county officials, state elected officials, state fish and wildlife agencies, leaders on equity and justice in conservation policy, environmental advocacy organizations, hunting and fishing organizations, regional fisheries management councils, farming and ranching organizations, trade associations, forestry representatives, outdoor recreation businesses and users, the seafood industry, and others.?
The report recommends additional dialogue with key partners – including states and Tribes – to inform early collaborative conservation efforts and the development of the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas.
“This report is only the starting point on the path to fulfilling the conservation vision that President Biden has outlined,” says the report. “Where this path leads over the next decade will be determined not by our agencies, but by the ideas and leadership of local communities. It is our job to listen, learn, and provide support along the way to help strengthen economies and pass on healthy lands, waters, and wildlife to the generations to come.”
Alaska-based SalmonState applauded the plan, but is hoping for permanent protections to Tongass National Forest and Bristol Bay, which have been threatened by the possible elimination of the Roadless Rule and Pebble Mine, respectively. Here’s reaction:
JUNEAU— SalmonState is excited to see the release of the Biden Administration’s initial report on the potential of the 30×30 initiative — a bold and necessary effort to protect 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. While there are multiple ways to reach these goals, two landscapes in Alaska offer a critical mass of support for 30×30-scale protections: Bristol Bay and the Tongass National Forest. Protecting Bristol Bay and the Tongass will provide huge positive impact now and light the way for successful efforts elsewhere.
“If we want to make 30×30 real and have it resonate with the public, we should protect places that the public cares about. Bristol Bay and the Tongass National Forest are two such places. The jobs, the fish and wildlife and the cultural riches they sustain should make them top of the list, immediate priority areas for the Administration,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol.
These two regions represent the two most important salmon-producing landscapes in America, birthing hundreds of millions of salmon annually and feeding everything from orcas to brown bears to people. The salmon of Bristol Bay and the Tongass connect some of the nation’s wildest lands to the ultra-productive North Pacific Ocean through their life cycle. In turn, the harvest of those salmon creates tens of thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in annual economic activity.
These magnificent landscapes provide tremendous carbon storage and resiliency benefits and serve as the traditional homelands of dozens of federally recognized Alaska Native tribes. The Tongass, for example, represents 44 percent of all the carbon storage on US national forests and Bristol Bay provides nearly 60 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon supply. Protection requests from a wildly diverse set of Tribal, business, community and NGO stakeholders are already in front of the Administration. Specifically, the reinstatement of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule for the Tongass and reestablishment of Clean Water Act protections for the headwaters of Bristol Bay await action by the Biden Administration and would lead to real, on-the-ground success, breathing life into 30×30 and making it real and positive for Americans from across the political spectrum.
SalmonState calls upon the Administration to take action now to protect two of the nation’s wildest and productive landscapes and make 30×30 an initiative that provides real impact and positive benefit to America and Americans. There is no better place to start than in Alaska’s Bristol Bay and Tongass.
See below for information why Alaska Bristol Bay and Tongass represent such an incredible opportunity.
Bristol Bay is home to one of the most valuable commercial fisheries in the world, as well as vibrant sport fishing, hunting, tourism, and recreation industry. Bristol Bay is threatened by the proposed colossal open pit Pebble Mine, which puts thousands of American jobs at risk and endangers the health of deep-rooted Alaskan industries. Clean Water Act protection put in place during the Obama Administration must be reinstated to protect one of the Nations’ most amazing and productive landscapes and the traditional homeland of the three dozen Alaska Native Tribes.
- $2.2 billion annual commercial fishery
- $90 million in Alaska state taxes and licensing fees
- 15,000 fishing jobs
- 7,000 sport fishing and hunting jobs
- Thousands of full and part-time tourism and recreation jobs
- Nearly 60% of the world’s wild sockeye salmon harvest
- Average annual return of more than 50 million wild salmon
- One of the most prolific king salmon runs on Earth
- Internationally renowned salmon sportfishing destination
- Supports the world’s highest concentration of brown bears, which depend on the bay’s abundant salmon runs to survive
- Home to over 20 million acres of wetlands, lakes, and streams critical for salmon spawning
At 17 million acres, the Tongass is America’s largest national forest and the largest intact temperate rainforest on the planet. It is an enormous carbon reservoir and salmon producer, and supports thousands of jobs. In 2001, following a process involving millions of comments and the collapse of the clearcut timber industry, the Roadless Rule protected 9 million acres of the forest from logging roads, while still allowing community interties, hydropower, and other approved uses. In 2020, however, against the will of Tongass residents, Tribes and Americans, the Trump Administration stripped those protections, opening up that land for clearcut old growth logging and industrialization. The Roadless Rule must be restored in order to defend some of the world’s last remaining old growth temperate rainforest, as well as the jobs, traditional lifestyles, and wildlife those ecosystems support.
- The Tongass stores 44% of the carbon stored in all U.S. national forests.
- The stripping of Roadless protections opens up 186,000 acres of some of the largest, oldest trees for clearcut logging. Those trees are the most valuable habitat — and they store and absorb the most carbon. Only 3% of the Tongass is large tree old growth.
- The intact Tongass supports the $2 billion commercial fishing and tourism industries
- 26 percent of Southeast Alaska’s annual employment (commercial fishing and tourism) is supported by the intact forest.
- The Tongass attracts more than 100,000 recreational anglers and more than 1 million visitors on average each year.
- The Tongass contains more than 5,000 salmon streams. Those streams and lakes birth 25 percent of the West Coast’s annual salmon catch. More than 50 million wild salmon are born in the Tongass each year.
- The Tongass has some of the densest concentrations of brown bears in the world. Old growth is essential habitat for them, for Sitka blacktail deer, for all five species of Alaska salmon, and for many other species.
- Southeast Alaskans overwhelmingly support the Roadless Rule. More than 90% of local subsistence testimony was in favor of the Roadless Rule. All six Southeast Alaska Tribes that had been participating in the Trump Administration’s Alaska Rulemaking process as cooperating agencies withdrew in protest over the way their valuable feedback was disregarded and disrespected.
- 95% of American testimony was in favor of maintaining protections.
SalmonState works to keep Alaska a place wild salmon and the people who depend on them thrive.
UPDATE: Here’s more reaction from the Land Trust Alliance:
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 6, 2021) – The Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization working to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America, today applauded release of the Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful report.
Building on the United States president’s earlier executive order committing to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030, this new report affirms the administration’s commitment to voluntary private land conservation and the protection of private property rights. The following statement can be attributed to Andrew Bowman, president & CEO of the Land Trust Alliance:
“Alongside our nearly 1,000 member land trusts, the Land Trust Alliance supports the goals, principles and recommendations outlined in the Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful report. The report recognizes the importance of safeguarding the lands that Americans know and love, and how central locally led conservation efforts will be to conserving 30% of our lands and waters by 2030.
“The Land Trust Alliance stands ready to work with the administration to secure greater incentives and rewards for voluntary land conservation in America. And the land trust community will do its part – in partnership with farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, fishermen, tribes, government officials and others who make local land conservation so effective – to make the 30×30 goal a reality.”
More information about this issue and the role land trusts expect to play in supporting their communities is available at https://www.landtrustalliance.org/30×30.
About the Land Trust Alliance
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents nearly 1,000 member land trusts supported by more than 200,000 volunteers and 4.6 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance is available at www.landtrustalliance.org.