Josefina Barrantes, EPIC 30×30 Coordinator
The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) released the Pathways to 30×30 California Annual Progress Report on May 18, 2023. This report updates the public and other interested parties on the state’s accomplishments in conservation that are in line with the state’s goal of conserving 30 percent of land and coastal waters by the year 2030, as set out by Executive Order N-82-20.
The purpose of the 30×30 movement comes from the recommendation of scientists worldwide that agree that we must protect 30 percent of the planet’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 to stave off ecosystem collapse, guard biodiversity, and stabilize the climate. CNRA estimated that if we are to meet this goal, California must conserve 6 million acres of land and 500,000 acres of coastal waters in the next six and a half years.
As the movement continues, the definition of conservation and what essentially “counts” under this movement is still debated regarding the use and ownership of said parcels of land. Despite the controversy, the progress report highlighted that in the past year, we have been able to conserve 631,000 acres that qualify as protected under the 30×30 movement. This brings us to having 24.4 percent of lands and 16.2 percent of coastal waters protected. The recent acreage conserved is only 0.633 percent of the land in California, with approximately a third of those acres being land re-designated by the Bureau of Land Management. This past year, the state has conserved 11 percent of the six million acres that must be protected by 2030. At this current rate, the state will only reach just under two thirds of its goal by 2030.
Several projects highlighted in the report were located in the far northern region of our beautiful state. The 46 acres of land returned to the Wiyot Tribe were highlighted in the report. As the land has been returned, tribal stewardship and restoration will follow this recent Land Back success. In addition to this, restoration efforts at the dunes at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge have been funded. This project will restore 80 acres of dune habitat, increasing sea level rise resiliency for local waterways, surrounding communities, and essential infrastructures. The Mid Klamath Watershed Council was also awarded funding from the America the Beautiful Challenge to remove invasive plants in forested and riparian areas and enhance salmonid habitats in the surrounding forests. Another successful conservation project in our region is the North Coast Resource Partnership’s Regional Wildfire Resilience Plan which is funded by a 10 million dollar grant from CAL FIRE’s Forest Health Program. The plan will help watersheds, fire sheds, forests, and communities recover from, and adapt to, extreme climate events such as wildfires, floods, and droughts. The Sproul Creek Instream Restoration Project in Humboldt County works in partnership with the Eel River Watershed Improvement Group (ERWIG) to improve the habitat for all life stages of Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout by adding 72 large wood structures to over 2.9 miles of stream. All these projects are beautiful examples of successfully funded conservation projects in our northern region of the state. As we strive to move closer to 30×30, funding from the state is of utmost importance in achieving this goal.
Recently, in mid-May, Governor Newsom came out with his May Revise, a proposed budget revision based on projected tax revenue. This proposed budget, unfortunately, punted a significant amount of climate funding to bonds. Bond funds aren’t available for a couple of years, even after they get voted on, which would be in 2024. If we are to achieve 30×30, then we need to act on these climate resiliency and conservation projects now. The current budget proposal does not reflect the time sensitivity of climate change and how important it is to prioritize it. The bonds would make the conservation rate we are trying to achieve nearly impossible. Further, 30×30 investments are needed to help us reach our goal.
The Power in Nature Coalition, a statewide coalition of small, medium, and large non-governmental organizations, as well as community and tribal groups, has organized to hold the state accountable for meeting the 30×30 goal. Currently, the coalition is working hard to ask the legislature to move funding out of bonds to accomplish the time-sensitive needs of climate change. Restoring cuts to the climate budget, specifically for 30×30, is crucial to meet our goal. The Nature Conservancy estimates that the state must spend at least $1 billion annually until 2030 for 30 percent of land and coastal waters to be protected.
As the Power in Nature coalition, which EPIC and NEC are a part of, works hard at this vital conservation goal, we ask that community members come forward with any conservation and restoration projects they may have in the region. The coalition works in unison to uplift projects that need funding and legislation to move forward. Ideas can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you all for your care and support in our work!