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Trust Our Land: What is 30 by 30 and what is our role?

Conserving our planet’s lands, waters, and wildlife begins at the local level. Photo taken by Todd Winslow Pierce.

International agreements can be rife with challenges. Some may say that nations will always choose to act in their rational self-interest in the short term, even if over the long term, collaboration is in their best interest.

Nowhere does this theory hold more weight than in that of climate action agreements. Their lack of legal teeth and enforcing mechanisms has resulted in a never ending game of “kick the can.”

Conservationists around the globe are looking to break this stalemate with an ambitious new undertaking: 30 by 30. Originally put forward during the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in September of last year, the plan aims to protect at least 30% of the planet — land and sea — by 2030. Avoiding the complexities surrounding enforcement of carbon emission reductions, the strategy uses simple metrics (e.g. acres of watershed restored) to address two ongoing crises: species extinction and climate change.

The plan’s straightforward approach is buoyed by its unique ability to address ecologic, economic, health, and equity issues. That allows conservation to garner broad support across the aisle, and is one reason why the Biden administration has signaled its desire to pursue the plan with gusto. With an area twice the size of Texas as its target, focus is on the how.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the United States’ prevailing conservation method was setting aside areas for wilderness protection. Though efficient, the strategy is now seen as arbitrary and random in actually protecting socio-ecological conservation priorities. It also tends to estrange rural landowners, who are key partners in conservation work and land stewardship.

Conservation easements, the bread and butter of EVLT’s conservation work for 40 years, are one idea taking center stage. Easements allow private landowners to set aside property for conservation purposes and receive tax benefits in return. The benefit of this strategy is that through partnerships and conversations with willing landowners, land trusts can help piece together vast swaths of interconnected land, thus providing those desperately needed wildlife migration corridors and carbon sinks.

We’ve got our work cut out for us here in Colorado just as well. According to a recent report from Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates, “Since 2001, Colorado has lost over a half-million acres of natural lands to development.” As it stands, Colorado needs to protect another 14 millions acres to reach the 20 million acres — or 30% — required by the plan. State policymakers needn’t expend too much political capital, however; the report notes “74 percent of Coloradans support the national goal of ‘30×30’.”

Eagle County too will have a part to play. With declining wildlife populations, outdoor recreation skyrocketing, and development booms on the horizon, a balanced approach will be tricky to find. But therein lies the power of the bottom-up approach. With community involvement, we can all come together to identify priorities and work toward collaborative solutions. Eagle Valley Land trust is turning 40! To celebrate, we are asking our community to help shape our next 40 years. Click here to complete our survey and share your thoughts.

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