From our wetlands to our grasslands, from our mesas to our forests, New Mexico is blessed with unique geographical, cultural, and biological diversity. Preserving our natural and cultural heritage is precisely the goal of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 30×30 Executive Order (EO) calling for New Mexico to protect 30% of its land and waters by 2030, with an additional 20% designated as climate stabilization areas.
On the two-year anniversary of the EO, we are a step closer to realizing that goal following the release of the second annual report from the state’s 30×30 Advisory Committee. Composed of seven state agencies and the State Land Office, the Committee has laid out its definitions for “conserved land” and “Climate Stabilization Areas.” These were developed through three rounds of public surveys and robust engagement with tribal governments, farmers, ranchers, land grants, acequias, environmental groups, and local governments. They read as follows:
- “Conserved Lands” means any land in a primarily natural or traditionally managed condition that is both durably protected and managed to provide or maintain ecosystem services, climate resiliency, or cultural values. These services and values include supporting New Mexico’s economy, protecting traditional ways of life, providing drinking water, ensuring food security, enhancing biodiversity, and providing equitable and inclusive recreational opportunities to promote the health and wellbeing of all who call New Mexico home.
- “Climate Stabilization Areas (CSAs)” means any land in a natural or seminatural condition that lacks durable protections but is nevertheless actively managed using either modern or traditional practices to maintain or enhance ecosystem services, land-based carbon sequestration, or climate resiliency.
These definitions act as a framework for the 30×30 Committee to monitor the effectiveness and impact of existing public programs toward the state’s conservation goal.
The report lists the numerous state programs and authorities contributing to the 30×30 goal. In the coming years, the Committee will focus on coordinating and effectively utilizing these programs through continued public outreach and stakeholder engagement. The programs are placed into the following categories:
- Permanently protected land
- Restore and improve the conservation value of land
- Promote equitable and inclusive access to nature
- Increase carbon sequestration
Several programs offer grant opportunities that allow stakeholders to submit projects and become directly involved in 30×30. Some projects involve the purchase of land or easements, but all are strictly voluntary. Any land the state acquires would always be public and purchased only from willing sellers. A full rundown of the Committee’s program evaluations can be found on the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resource Department’s website at emnrd.nm.gov.
Looking forward, the next steps for the Committee will be establishing a baseline of acres defined as “Conserved” or “Climate Stabilization Areas,” and creating a system to track and report progress toward these goals. Additionally, they will be conducting assessments of agency programs to identify specific project and policy opportunities that will contribute to achieving Conserved Land and Climate Stabilization Area goals.
But most importantly, the Committee has resolved to continue its engagement with tribes, nations, pueblos, and the public on 30×30 opportunities and concerns. This is of foremost importance and concern to CVNM, and has been outlined by the Biden Administration under the Justice40 initiative, which is an essential component to the national vision for America the Beautiful. Too often, in efforts to protect land and water, frontline communities, Indigenous, rural, and communities of color are left out of the process. Thus far, the 30×30 Committee has done a good job engaging these communities.
In addition 30×30 falls under the Justice40 Initiative, established by the Biden administration to address the climate crisis by focusing on fairness and equity. Justice40 requires that 40% of all federally-funded projects benefit marginalized communities. These investments will help confront decades of underinvestment in disadvantaged communities, and bring critical resources to communities that have been overburdened by legacy pollution and environmental hazards.
Still, as 30×30 efforts continue, we must ensure it does so with equity and inclusivity as core tenets. To this end, the Advisory Committee encourages the public to continue to send in comments and questions on 30×30 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach out and make sure that New Mexico’s conservation future is a place for everyone.