WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fishing industry leaders say angler activism is vital in the wake of an executive order from President Joe Biden that calls for recommendations on how to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 as part of a global “30x30” initiative.
They worry that the interests of anglers and hunters could be lost in the rush to “preserve,” and as a consequence, public access to lands and waters could be lost.
"Anglers’ license dollars, excise taxes and fees support the conservation of our nation's fisheries,” said B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland.
“Maintaining responsible access to those lands and waters is vital to ensuring continued appreciation and support among sportsmen and women."
The 30x30 plan could be a good thing, according to Chris Horton, National Fisheries Policy Director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), but he added, “There are still a lot of questions as to how ‘protect’ or ‘conserve’ will be defined.”
If the plan ends up “being lines on a map that unnecessarily lock people out from using or managing our aquatic resources to get some theoretical number, that’s not a genuine effort at biodiversity conservation and not something that we support,” he continued.
Right now, conservation, preservation, environmental and sportsmen’s groups are conferring with the Biden administration, with recommendations from the latter expected by May on what constitutes conserved lands and waters and how progress will be measured.
B.A.S.S. has joined 49 other groups in the Hunt-Fish 30x30 Coalition to speak for the interests and concerns of anglers, hunters and other outdoorsmen.
“When the rhetoric around 30x30 began to surface here in the United States, followed by the introduction of a really bad 30x30 bill in California last year, CSF realized we needed to pull the hunting and fishing community together and develop a statement on 30x30,” Horton said.
“We’ve supported fisheries and aquatic resource conservation.”
Indeed, as the coalition points out, anglers and hunters have contributed $65.1 billion to state conservation programs. Additionally, they have provided $1.4 billion in annual funding to help recover 12,000 species of Greatest Conservation Need, and their financial support has allowed for acquisition of 6 million acres through creation or expansion of National Wildlife refuges and through purchase with federal Duck Stamps.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 12% of the country’s lands are conserved, and according to the National Park Service (NPS), about 23% of U.S. ocean waters, mostly in the Pacific, are protected.
“Meeting the 30x30 target will require conserving an additional area twice the size of Texas, more than 440 million acres, within the next 10 years, according to the Campaign for Nature,” NPS added.
Taking into consideration the contributions and concerns of sportsmen for this expansion is paramount, according to Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman, a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
“Conserving our nation’s rich natural resources will always be one of my top priorities in Congress; however, I’m concerned that a currently undefined 30x30 initiative may undermine this goal,” he said.
“We should be accessing our lands and waters for a variety of reasons, including multiple use, outdoor recreation, and hunting and fishing. Protecting the environment is about quality, not quantity, and simply setting an arbitrary acreage goal won’t allow land managers to properly steward resources.”
Fortunately, Horton said, anglers and hunters gained a voice with the establishment of the coalition and, thus far, “the conversations with the Biden Administration have been positive.”
Even so, Gilliland added, “We need to emphasize that anglers should be vigilant to what's going on in their state legislatures and be ready for a call-to-action when political advocacy is needed.
“Anglers need to be informed and have that ‘seat at the table’ in both state houses and Washington, D.C.”