By Coleman Garrison
Since President Biden was sworn into office on January 20, he has issued a series of executive orders (EO) that pertain to conservation and natural resource protection. On President Biden’s first day in office, he issued an executive order, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” which included a list of agency regulations that will be reviewed to ensure they do not conflict with the EO’s objectives and goals.
Included among these are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s final Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which redefined what is considered jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act. NACD was supportive of the Trump Administration’s repeal of the 2015 Waters of the United States rule and submitted public comments in support of the new rule to define which waters are jurisdictional for purposes of the Clean Water Act, now known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Additional regulations related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) were also included on the list, such as the recently finalized Critical Habitat Designation Rule, for which NACD provided comments.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, President Biden issued a separate EO on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which includes several provisions related to agriculture and natural resource protection. The EO commits the U.S. to “the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.” It states that the Secretaries of the Interior, Commerce and Agriculture should solicit input from a diverse set of stakeholders including state, local and tribal governments, along with agricultural and forest landowners, to identify what strategies can achieve this goal. A report to the newly created national climate task force is to be submitted within 90 days with the recommended steps.
The order also calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) Initiative to “mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs. The initiative shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.” Once again, within 90 days the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture must submit their strategy to create this new CCC initiative to the task force.
Finally, this EO directs the Secretary of Agriculture to solicit input once again from stakeholders on “how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices that decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change and result in additional, measurable and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration.”
NACD looks forward to providing these agencies with the views of conservation districts and informing them of how conservation districts across the country are already working to preserve our nation’s natural resources on public and private working lands.
See NACD’s submission to the House Select Committee on the climate crisis for more information on how existing programs and authorities can make a difference.