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Biden Administration Begins Term with Environment, Natural Resource Orders
In the first few weeks of the new administration, President Biden and agency officials implemented orders on numerous environmental and natural resource issues. Many of the actions specifically target policies established under the previous administration as well as marking their intention to work aggressively on climate and environment issues.
On his first day in office, the president signed an executive order that included provisions to evaluate national monument designations that had been substantially changed by the previous administration. In addition, the day one order placed a moratorium on leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and withdraws certain offshore areas in Arctic waters and the Bering Sea from oil and gas drilling.
The next week on January 27, the president signed a climate change executive order with a purpose that states: “This order builds on and reaffirms actions my Administration has already taken to place the climate crisis at the forefront of this Nation’s foreign policy and national security planning, including submitting the United States instrument of acceptance to rejoin the Paris Agreement. In implementing — and building upon — the Paris Agreement’s three overarching objectives (a safe global temperature, increased climate resilience, and financial flows aligned with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate‑resilient development), the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global climate ambition to meet the climate challenge.”
Elements of the order focus on specific actions including prioritizing renewable energy development on federal public lands while pausing new oil and gas leasing on federal public lands pending comprehensive review. The president tasks agencies to develop climate action plans to improve adaptation and increase resilience. In addition, the order envisions a Civilian Climate Corps to provide work opportunities that support land and water restoration, community resilience, reforestation, recreation, and more. Part of the order embraces the goal of conserving at least 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. It also tasks the U.S. Department of Agriculture to encourage “the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices that decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change and result in additional, measurable, and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration and that source sustainable bioproducts and fuels.” Further components of the order focus on environmental justice for historically marginalized communities.
“To summarize, this executive order — it’s about jobs — good-paying union jobs,” President Biden noted in his remarks during the signing event. “It’s about workers building our economy back better than before. It’s a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy. It’s advancing conservation; revitalizing communities and cities and on the farmlands; and securing environmental justice. Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. We’re bold. We are unwavering in the pursuit of jobs and innovation, science and discovery. We can do this, we must do this, and we will do this.”
In addition to the executive orders, the Department of the Interior began reversing policies implemented by the Trump Administration. On February 9, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it was extending the comment period on the final Migratory Bird Treaty Rule that was published on January 7 and requests public comment on “whether the rule should be amended, rescinded, delayed pending further review by the agency, or allowed to go into effect.” The new comment period ends on March 8 and can be found in the Federal Register.
On February 11, the Department of the Interior also announced that it is rescinding an order and other actions taken in November and December that imposed new restrictions on how the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be implemented.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been crucial to protecting public lands, conserving wildlife habitats, and improving access to outdoor recreation. Interior’s actions today affirm our support for one of America’s most successful and popular conservation programs,” said Shannon A. Estenoz, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Fish and Wildlife and Parks in a statement. “We look forward to further strengthening this successful program to ensure that all communities – from hikers and sportsmen to urban and underserved communities – have access to nature and the great outdoors.”