October 23, 2019

Resolution part of 'new playbook' on the environment — Udall

By Kellie Lunney, Oct. 23 2019

CAP event

An ambitious new Senate resolution calling for protecting at least 30% of the country's lands and waters by 2030 will act as a barometer for subsequent conservation and environmental legislation, the measure's sponsor, New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, said yesterday.

"The resolution is the first step to see what we are looking at, to see what kind of bipartisan support we can get and kind of move it forward," Udall told reporters after remarks at a Center for American Progress event, where he unveiled his "Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature."

The measure, which does not carry the force of law, recommends that the government work with local communities, states, tribes and private landowners to strive toward the conservation target to help fight climate change as well as improve access to nature for communities of color.

"We're just going to push it hard and fight for it hard," Udall said when asked about the resolution's prospects.

Udall is leading the effort with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. Other Democratic co-sponsors to date include Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Kamala Harris of California, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

The initiative is part of Udall's broader, ongoing legislative efforts to protect public lands and wildlife throughout the country as his time in office draws to a close.

The Democrat, whose late father, Stewart Udall, served as the Interior Department's secretary in the 1960s, announced earlier this year he would not seek a third Senate term in 2020.

Udall's legislation this Congress includes bills that would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from leasing or proposing new leases within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as well as a measure that would establish a national wildlife corridors system on federal lands and waters.

"This administration is doing everything possible to take public lands out of public hands and put them in the hands of their friends in the fossil fuel industry," Udall told the audience at the CAP event yesterday morning.

"Through massive oil and gas lease sales, the administration has put nearly 19 million acres, an area of the size of South Carolina, on the table for extraction," he said.

But the senator added the president's actions are only part of the problem — climate change is the immediate threat facing animal and plant species, ecosystems, and nature itself. "The Trump administration has thrown gasoline on the flames, but the house was already on fire," he said.

Udall envisions the "Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature" as part "of a new playbook to address the climate and nature crisis."

Part of the resolution calls for making public lands "pollution free," Udall said. "Emissions from fossil fuels extracted on public lands account for nearly one-quarter of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions."

But he said communities, states and tribes that rely on fossil fuels also must be protected in the transition to a clean energy economy. "No one can be left out," Udall said.

The resolution also calls for environmental justice and equitable access to nature for everyone.

"We can't ignore the legacy of toxic pollution that has harmed so many low-income communities and communities of color," said Udall. "We cannot ignore the centuries of desecration of Native heritage and Native lands."

Udall's New Mexico colleague Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland said health concerns and the cultural significance of places such as Chaco outweigh the economic benefits of oil and gas drilling in the state.

"Children have asthma, people have medical issues, you can see the methane cloud hovering over northwestern New Mexico from space," Haaland said during the CAP event. "That's a detriment to our health, our society and our planet. No amount of money is worth that to me, and I know a lot of people feel that way."

Haaland, a freshman who has burnished her reputation as a leader on environment and conservation issues, said there is already a lot of oil and gas drilling in New Mexico. "We don't need to do it in every inch of our state," she said. "We just don't."

The Center for American Progress yesterday released a study that found the average distance from natural places to developed areas in the United States has decreased by 40% during the last 20 years.

"With a football field's worth of America's natural areas disappearing every 30 seconds, the United States needs to do far more to help communities conserve our lands, waters and wildlife," said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow and the senior director of environmental strategy and communications at CAP.

The report also concluded that the "nature crisis" is "most acute" in the South and Midwest of the United States. Many scientists have recommended a "30x30" proposal for conservation throughout the world.

A group of 16 former Republican and Democratic members of Congress sent a letter Monday to the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity endorsing the target.

"We understand this target to be a global goal and not one that every country will be expected to meet," wrote the former lawmakers to Cristiana Pasca Palmer. "That said, we do hope that all countries, the United States of America included, redouble their efforts to advance significantly more land and marine conservation within their own borders."

The original story was published on the E&E News website.

By:  Kellie Lunney
Source: E&E News