Grand commissioners oppose President Biden’s 30 by 30 conservation program |

Grand commissioners oppose President Biden’s 30 by 30 conservation program

Grand County is opposing President Joe Biden’s executive action to preserve 30% of American lands and waters by 2030.

Called the 30 by 30 Program, the initiative is part of Biden’s executive order Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad issued on Jan. 27. The Garfield County commissioners passed a resolution in February opposing the order. Garfield’s resolution was accompanied by a letter raising a number of issues, which Grand County commissioners discussed Tuesday.

Most of all, Grand County Commissioners Merrit Linke and Kris Manguso felt that the federal government should not be the agency preserving and protecting public lands as described in Biden’s executive order.

“Preserving and protecting — the government does not have a good track record of doing those two things. The hands off approach does not work, as evidenced by a 200,000 acre fire in Grand County last summer,” Linke said, referencing October’s East Troublesome Fire.

Manguso said that the federal government has mismanaged public lands while limiting public access. She also took issue with how Biden pursued the plan, saying that it should have been done through the legislature rather than an executive order.

“I think if you are going to do something like this … I think it should go through an entire process and go through each and every state,” Manguso said. “This should’ve taken a year or two, not seven days after somebody takes office.”

Commissioner Rich Cimino wasn’t ready to jettison the president’s plan just yet and spoke in defense of public lands, pointing out their benefits locally.

More than two-thirds of Grand County is federal land, making it a major economic driver for the county. Winter Park Resort and Rocky Mountain National Park bring millions of tourists to the area annually, along with hunting and recreation on US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

“I think (30 by 30 is) a worthy goal. I’d like to learn more about it,” Cimino said. “I think this is a bit reactionary.”

The executive order left a number of questions for the commissioners, including just how much land would be protected.

According to a presentation provided to commissioners by the American Stewards of Liberty, 28% of the country is federally owned but only 12% of lands are considered “permanently protected.” It’s unclear what exactly preservation would look like in the executive order.

Manguso added that Biden’s order also calls for 30% of waters to be protected, which could raise additional issues in the county related to water rights.

While Cimino felt he needed more information to make a decision one way or another, he also said that the issue wasn’t worth additional county time.

With Manguso and Linke willing to express opposition to the 30 by 30 Program, commissioners decided 2-1 to authorize Linke, the board’s chair, to sign a letter similar to Garfield County’s.

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