Lawrence County Commission passes resolution opposing ‘30 x 30’ land grab

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DEADWOOD — The Lawrence County Commission stands in opposition to the federally proposed “30 x 30” land grab that would effectively set aside 30%, or 680 million acres, of United States land for permanent preservation by 2030.

The 30 x 30 program is a plan advanced by environmental activists to permanently protect 30% of America’s land and oceans by 2030. The program was adopted by the Biden Administration through Executive Order 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” signed Jan. 27.

Proponents argue that climate impacts are human-caused, and permanently preserving 30% of America’s land and oceans is necessary to reverse climate change, claiming action must be taken immediately to avoid impacts on the ecosystem and wildlife.

Opponents question whether the science and data justify these extreme policy measures and argue that 30 x 30 is an unconstitutional policy shift, moving the United States from a nation founded on private property principles to one controlled by the administrative state.

Lawrence County Commissioner Bob Ewing said he recently attended a meeting on the matter, attended by around 300 individuals in Rapid City.

“It really wakes you up. It’s very dangerous,” Ewing said. “If this came to fruition, it would affect the way we manage our weeds in our county, our timber industry, crops grown, livestock raised. I mean, it’s a huge, far outreach to try to take over public and private land and pretty much just put it into a wilderness area, I guess, would be the easiest thing. And they’re encouraging counties, districts, everyone that can, to get on board with this resolution that you have before us … to me, this resolution is extremely important and I’d like to see this board pass it and put it into effect.”

Commission Chairman Richard Sleep added that the land grab is just the first step.

“The next step is half of the land by 2050,” Sleep said.

Commissioner Randall Rosenau said he is in support of the resolution.

“One of the things that we need to, in the future, change or adopt or modify … because we truly don’t know where this is going to go,” Rosenau said.

Commissioner Randy Deibert said there was a discussion at the multiple-use coalition meeting about the administration redefining water and the different ways to manage it.

Dan Graf, of Whitewood, was in attendance at the commission meeting and weighed in on the matter.

“I just want to say thank you,” Graf said. “For you guys being aware of that and thank you for moving on something, there. That means a lot. I will spread that that you guys are aware of that, because that, from some of the people I’ve heard, that’s a really big deal, so I appreciate you guys working on that.”

The resolution sets forth that in addition to opposing the 30 x 30 program, the board further opposes the designation of lands in Lawrence County as wilderness, wilderness study areas, wildlife preserves, open space, or other conservation land, thereby restricting public access to such lands and preventing the development and productive use of the resources on or within such lands.

The resolution also states that the board recognizes and supports the state’s water rights and water use and opposes any federal designation of waters and watercourses within the county that would impair or restrict water diversions and uses authorized under South Dakota law.

While the board supports reasonable greenhouse gas emissions policies and goals, it opposes the use of global climate change as an excuse to set aside large tracts of land as preserves or open space to fulfill the 30 x 30 program’s objectives.

Finally, the board maintained that any lands or other rights that are acquired to fulfill the program’s objectives should be acquired only from willing landowners for full and fair market value payment.

Lawrence County resident Luke Evenson addressed the commission via email, stating he feels the act will be devastating to future generations of farmers and ranchers.

“As a young cattle producer starting from scratch, I see this as a major hurdle to the success of my operation, as I’m already faced with the unrealistic land prices our state is seeing,” Evenson wrote. “Taking more land away greatly impedes the people who want to farm and ranch and keep the heart of this country alive.”

In March, Chairmen Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Steve Daines (R-MT), of the Congressional & Senate Western Caucuses, led 12 Senate members and 50 House members of the respective Caucuses in sending a letter to President Joe Biden asking important clarifying questions about the executive order establishing a directive to put restrictions on at least 30% of lands and waters by 2030 (30 by 30).

“The lack of detail accompanying this goal, the inability of your nominee for Secretary of the Interior – author of the mirroring legislation – to answer questions about this initiative, and the fact that this effort is spearheaded by an unconfirmed appointee housed in the National Climate Task Force has resulted in numerous concerns raised by those who live, work, and recreate on and near public lands,” wrote the lawmakers.

Western Caucus members expressed concern that Western states would be disproportionately impacted by the 30 x 30 Initiative and demanded President Biden provide details about how he plans to accomplish this goal without harming the industries, economies, and ways of life in Western and rural communities.

“The West is already paving the way on conservation,” they wrote. “Stewardship of our lands is embedded in our Western values. Sustainable, healthy land is the lifeblood of our rural communities and our outdoor heritage and rural economies thrive when our lands are properly managed. While the Administration has implied that multiple-use is not contrary to conservation, recent activities that attack key industries suggests otherwise.”

The federal government manages 640 million acres of land, over 90% of which is west of the Mississippi River. The Western Caucus supports policies to promote active land management, multiple-use, locally-led conservation efforts, and public land access that benefits local, rural communities and strengthens economic development throughout rural America.

“Given our wide-open spaces, large-scale landscapes, and significant federal ownership, Western states will be disproportionately impacted by policies set in place to achieve the 30 by 30 goal, which we fear will impact revenues-derived and jobs that depend upon multiple-use public lands,” states the letter. “We urge you to remember that land management agencies are bound by a statutory-based multiple-use mandate. Our lands and our waters must remain open to activities that support our rural economies and help us to achieve our agriculture, timber, recreation, energy, and mineral needs … While these lands contribute to overall conservation, subjecting private landowners to this nebulous federal program is an extreme breach of private property rights. More clarity is desperately needed.”

A May 6 story in the Washington Post criticized the plan for a lack of specifics regarding the location of the land or the level of conservation required.

The Washington Post story estimates that roughly 12% of U.S. land and 11% of freshwater ecosystems encompassing more than 582,000 square miles of land and sea are currently protected.

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