Oregon and the 30x30 Conservation Initiative

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (Jim Chamberlain)

Oregon is known for its wild forests, rivers, estuaries, mountains, and deserts that stretch across the state. These landscapes purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and support the salmon and other wildlife that are part of our region’s identity. But Oregon’s communities and wildlife are facing unprecedented environmental challenges in the face of climate change and ongoing logging, grazing, and development. Given these impacts, the need to conserve the natural world for both people and wildlife has become even more apparent. 

Scientists worldwide agree that in order to stave off a biodiversity crisis and reverse global climate change, bold action towards conservation is needed: they recommend working to conserve 30% of the planet’s natural land and oceans by the year 2030. Governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses have begun to work together to achieve this goal, known as the 30x30 initiative.  

Oregon Wild supports a bold 30 x 30 plan for the conservation of Oregon’s lands and waters because establishing meaningful protections for 30 percent of Oregon’s lands and waters aligns with our values and goals as an organization. Achieving the 30 x 30 vision will help us achieve our goals of helping native wildlife thrive, protecting special places, and defending and restoring forests and waters. It will help us mitigate for and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and improve the quality of life and contribute to the wellbeing of all Oregonians.  

Along with other global partners, President Biden has committed to addressing this goal at a national level, and some states have taken legislative or administrative actions to identify lands and waters that can be part of an effort to protect 30 percent of lands and waters at the state level. It is time for Oregon to do the same and we want to help. 

Recently, we joined more than 20 other organizations in calling on Governor Brown to commit to doing what she can to support the 30 X 30 initiative. In addition to supporting efforts to conserve private lands as laid out in the Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful Report released this year  by the Department of Interior, we recommend that the Governor and state agencies take some of the following actions to contribute to 30 X 30 goals: 

  • Permanently protect mature and old growth stands in Oregon’s State Forests. 
  • Protect unique marine ecosystems within Oregon’s Territorial Sea.
  • Double the size of the State Scenic Waterway System. 
  • Prioritize wildlife crossings and other fish & wildlife connectivity investments. 
  • Expand and permanently protect Outstanding Resource Waters (​ORW). 

Of course, federal public lands make up roughly half of Oregon’s lands, and most of the wild places that meet the criteria for protection outlined by the USGS, so action is needed by our federal administration, management agencies, and lawmakers as well.  

The Biden administration and federal agencies can take action at the executive level in the following ways: 

  • Implement a national rulemaking to protect all remaining mature and old growth forests and trees on federal lands in both western and eastern Oregon. 
  • Strengthen protections for Inventoried Roadless Areas. 
  • Expand the Roadless Area Conservation Rule to include unroaded natural areas of 1,000 acres or more. 
  • Strengthen protections for BLM Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWCs). 
  • Expand and strengthen protections for land within the Greater Sage-Grouse Comprehensive Conservation Strategy.  
  • Designate New and/or Expand National Monuments.  

In addition, our federal lawmakers can take legislative actions to help Oregon achieve 30 X 30 goals as well. 

  • Pass the River Democracy Act of 2021 to designate 4,700 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers across Oregon with protected buffers.  
  • Pass the Roadless Area Conservation Act to protect nearly 2 million acres of inventoried Roadless areas in Oregon. 
  • Pass the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act to better provide for habitat connectivity.
  • Pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act to better fund conservation of non-game species in Oregon. 
  • Designate New and/or Expand Wilderness Areas, especially considering unroaded areas. These may include:
    • Expanding protections for the Mount Hood region. 
    • Expanding protections for the Wild Rogue.
    • Expanding protections for Oregon’s desert wilderness areas such as the Greater Hart-Sheldon area and Owyhee Canyonlands.  
    • Designate the Crater Lake Wilderness. 
    • Designate Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) as new Wilderness Areas. 
    • Seek opportunities to expand existing wilderness areas. 
  • Designate New and/or Expand National Parks. 

We believe the 30x30 goal for the US is ambitious but achievable, and Oregon’s spectacular wild lands, forests, and waters can play a major role in accomplishing this initiative to address the dual biodiversity and climate crises facing our global ecosystems and communities.

Photo Credits
Jim Chamberlain