President Joe Biden has issued an executive order to increase federal land holdings by 30 percent by the year 2030 and Lea County Commissioners Dean Jackson and Pat Sims are hosting an information session Thursday evening in Lovington to let people know how they can protect their property from seizure.
“They (the Biden administration) want another 30 percent of land in the United States and territorial waters. The federal government wants to take over 30 percent — it doesn’t matter if it’s private,” Jackson told the News-Sun. “The first I heard about it, a friend of mine has farmed Kansas for generations. The Department of the Interior had a meeting and basically told these farmers and ranchers, ‘we are coming and we are going to take 30 percent of your land, plant it in native grass and turn buffalo out on it so people in metropolitan areas can see what America was like.’”
To answer questions those who attend the meeting Thursday evening may have, Margret Byfield, executive director of American Stewards of Liberty, will lead the discussion. ASL is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting private property rights, defending land use and restoring local control to matters involving land use.
The 30 x 30 plan was implemented by the Biden administration’s Executive Order 14008 to take control of, and “permanently protect,” 30 percent of American land and territorial waters by 2030. The plan is also called “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.”
“It’s a very radical environmental initiative the Biden administration is planning to implement,” Byfield told the News-Sun. “The administration has not been forthright and transparent about what they plan to include in this initiative. In fact, they have said they can’t define what they mean by ‘conserve’ in the one report they have issued.”
Sims said he feels the 30 x 30 program could be used to limit oil production and reduce land oil and gas companies can operate on.
“(In Lea County) I don’t think this is going to affect the ranchers as much as it’s going to affect the oilfield,” Sims told the News-Sun. “Lea County has the (Lesser) Prairie Chicken and Sand Dune (Dunes Sagebrush) lizards. This 30 x 30, I can definitely being used to keep the oilfield off endangered species country.”
The 12 percent of currently “permanently protected” land in the U.S. is mostly made up of national parks, wilderness areas, state parks, national wildlife refuges and private lands with conservation easements, Byfield said.
Reading and studying the report, and those involved in creating it, lead researchers and advocates for property rights like ASL to understand what the goal of the program is and how it will impact landowners.
“30 x 30 is about land control. They believe that our lands are currently not protected well enough and that we are losing millions of species to extinction, and that we (America) have to have a fundamental change in how we (America) manage lands in order to save those species,” Byfield said.
Byfield said the outright taking of private land would be difficult to do, but there are other “tools in their toolbox” proponents of the 30 x 30 plan intend to use.
“They do have the ability to make federal land acquisitions under the land and water conservation act, which is now fully and permanently funded,” said Byfield, who added those pushing the program will probably rely more on coercion and “they really are depending on land owners voluntarily signing up for conservation programs that allow them (federal government) to place restrictions on the land.”
Everything from the endangered species listings and designation of critical habitat is a regulatory tool ASL thinks will be used for the appropriation of privately owned land, Byfield said. “What they’ve told Congress is they plan to use all the tools in their toolbox. … They are planning to use every device they can to implement this.”
Lea County will join other New Mexico counties in opposing the federal effort to take control of 30 percent of land in the U.S. at the the commissioner’s meeting Thursday morning. Other counties that have already signed similar resolutions include Chaves, Otero, Catron and Quay, as well as the Logan Board of Education.
“I think the west is the land mass they (those implementing the agenda) are targeting,” Jackson said. “A person in New York doesn’t understand me having 1,500 acres. That’s unreal to them. … I think there’s contempt for people in the heartland. We’re flyover states.”
Biden signed executive order 14008, (86 Fed. Reg. 7,619), on Jan. 27 to put the 30 x 30 program in place. The ASL states, the “30 x 30 is an unconstitutional policy shift, moving us from a nation founded on private property principles to one controlled by the administrative state.”
Congress is responsible for setting federal land use laws, not the executive branch, Byfield added.
Jackson said the efforts to stop the “federal land grab” must begin on the local level and it should concern everyone — not just those who live on acreage.
“Believe it or not, the government still listens to the masses,” he said. “People need to show up, ask questions and contact their representatives to let them know what they think about this. … It affects someone in town as much as it affects anyone else, because that is your property. If the government can come in and take range land, what’s to stop them from coming in and taking your property? Eventually saying, ‘we want your house. Get out. We’ll give you pennies on the dollar.’”
“(Grass roots efforts) are extremely important. In fact, it is what has pushed back this agenda from being fully implemented. We came out early and defined it as a ‘land grab,’ which it is, and educated the grassroots,” Byfield said. “They’ve (30 x 30 proponents) been on the defense ever since.”
Not only was the effort in slowing down the agenda successful, but the president’s task force leading the push released a report trying to rebrand the 30 x 30 agenda under the new name, “America the Beautiful” to try to sell the program, Byfield said.
“They have been on defense because the grassroots got quickly educated and took action registering their opposition,” she said.
It’s not just grass-roots citizens opposing the plan, as 15 governors have signed a joint letter stating section 216 of Biden’s executive order 14008, to appropriate and conserve 30 percent of America’s lands by 2030, “infringes on the sovereignty of the states and rights of the citizens.”
Led by Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts, the first governor to announce opposition to 30 x 30, the letter was signed by the governors of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.