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Administration Releases America the Beautiful Progress Report, Seeks Input on Atlas
The Biden Administration released a report on December 20 that outlines progress made in 2021 to advance the goals of the America the Beautiful initiative. Then on January 3, the Department of the Interior announced that it was taking public comment and hosting listening sessions to help develop the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas (Atlas) that will be used to share baseline information on the lands and waters that are conserved or restored.
The co-chairs of the America the Beautiful Interagency Working Group—Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality Brenda Mallory—note in the report’s introduction: “This first annual America the Beautiful report is by no means comprehensive of all the efforts underway across the Federal family—let alone the country—but it provides a snapshot of how the Biden-Harris administration is kicking off a decade-long effort to conserve and restore the lands and waters we cherish as Americans. The last section, entitled “State of Lands, Waters, and Wildlife,” paints a clear picture that the challenges we face are urgent and merit our sustained attention.”
The America the Beautiful progress report centers on work that federal agencies are undertaking around six areas of focus: creating more parks and safe outdoor opportunities; building connectivity and corridors for fish and wildlife; supporting Tribally-led conservation and restoration; increasing access for outdoor recreation; incentivizing voluntary conservation; creating jobs and growing local economies; and deploying nature to increase climate resilience and remove carbon from the atmosphere. The report also includes a brief review of land-cover changes and the status of fish and wildlife habitats and populations.
At the same time the report was released, the Administration announced that it was continuing the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council, the federal advisory committee. Originally established in 2008 under the President George W. Bush and continued under both President Obama and President Trump, the committee has been organized under a variety of names and with different membership representing the hunting and wildlife conservation community.
“Whether it’s restoring healthy forests, expanding recreational opportunities on our public lands or working to conserve habitat on our working farms, ranches and forestlands, sportsmen and women are a critical partner in conserving America’s lands and waters,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “The Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council will provide USDA and DOI vital insight in how we can advance wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation, and rural economic development.”
A key component of the America the Beautiful initiative is the Atlas that will define how the Administration will measure its progress in conserving, connecting, or restoring 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. To develop the Atlas and determine what will “count” toward that progress, the interagency working group is specifically seeking input on:
- Science and Data. What data sources, standards, and technical approaches should be applied to data included in the Atlas to ensure that it is an authoritative and useful tool for the public?
- Conservation as a Continuum. How can the Atlas reflect the meaningful conservation work already underway in America?
- What stewardship actions should be considered, in addition to permanent protections, to capture a more complete picture of conservation and restoration in America?
- What are the attributes of lands and waters that should be included in the Atlas? Considerations could include, for example, a clearly defined geographic boundary, status of ecological function, representation of species and habitats, extent of disturbance, expected future risks from climate change or other human stressors, ecosystem connectivity, or durability of management status.
- How can the Atlas best reflect the contributions of State, local, Tribal, territorial, and private lands?
- Outcomes. How can the Atlas best reflect land and water contributions to biodiversity, climate change mitigation and resilience, and equitable access to nature and its benefits?
Written comments can be submitted through Regulations.gov on or before March 4, 2022. The interagency working group will also host public listening sessions that will be livestreamed on the Events page. Interested parties who would like to share verbal comments during these sessions must register in advance using the links below, as speaking order will be determined by registration queue: