Federal Grazing Lands and Their Suitability as 'Conservation Lands' in the 30 by 30 Program

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Kacey Hovden, J.D. candidate, Lewis & Clark Law School; Gregory Allen, J.D. candidate, Lewis & Clark Law School.

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Environmental Law Reporter

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Env't L. Rep.


This paper assesses whether federal grazing lands can qualify as "conservation lands" for inclusion in the 30 by 30 program, the Biden Administration's promise to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands by the year 2030. After surveying the legal landscape under which these lands are managed, we conclude that Congress has established a uniform but overlooked standard for grazing lands: nonimpairment of the productivity of the land. If actually applied to grazing lands, the standard could define 30 by 30 conservation lands make those lands eligible for inclusion in the 30 by 30 program. However, since neither of the principal federal land managers even assesses most of their lands for rangeland health, nonimpairment is at present a dead letter. Unless and until federal grazing lands are evaluated for rangeland health, they can neither satisfy the nonimpairment standard nor be included as conservation lands in the 30 by 30 initiative. But if the Biden administration structures the 30 by 30 program to provide incentives to improve rangeland health, it could become a vehicle to meet the long ignored statutory requirement and add to conservation lands in the 30 by 30 program.

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Co-authors Kacey Hovden and Greg Allen are students at Lewis & Clark Law School.