The U.S. government this week released a preliminary report outlining a goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
The report, titled “America the Beautiful,” calls for a decade-long effort to support locally led and voluntary conservation and restoration efforts across public, private, and Tribal lands and waters.
Here are some ocean-related excerpts from the report:
“Critical ocean habitats are declining, including an estimated 90 percent loss of live corals in the Florida Keys over the past 40 years and up to a 90 percent loss of bull kelp off of the northern coast of California in less than 10 years.6 Roughly half of the riparian ecosystems and wetlands in the lower 48 States have already been lost, while more than 17,000 square miles of ranchland and farmland were lost to development or fragmented in the last two decades.
“Ocean waters are warming, causing sea level rise, species migration, and altering circulation patterns. Ocean acidification and deoxygenation due to climate change pose significant threats to many marine species that sustain ocean life as we know it, such as seagrasses, krill, and corals.
“This report is a first step toward developing a national conservation effort that reflects the President’s ambition, his determination to combat the climate crisis and address environmental injustice while also growing our economy, and his commitment to listening, learning, and supporting the extraordinary conservation work that is already underway across America.”
The report recommends the U.S. government create an “American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas” that collects baseline information on the amount and types of lands and waters that are being managed for conservation and restoration purposes.
One of the steps the federal government should take to “stem the decline of fish and wildlife populations and their habitats throughout the country” is:
“NOAA should expand the National Marine Sanctuaries System and National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Through broad public engagement, NOAA can establish national marine sanctuaries that protect natural and cultural marine and Great Lakes resources and promote sustainable uses. The process to establish new national marine sanctuaries and accompanying management plans has already begun for sites in Wisconsin and New York, and several other sites have been nominated for potential future designation. Similarly, under authorities provided by the Coastal Zone Management Act, NOAA is exploring new designations for national estuarine research reserves in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Louisiana.34 If approved, they would join a network of coastal sites managed in partnership with coastal states and local partners for the protection and research of estuarine systems. In addition, NOAA’s Restoration Center should expand its work to conserve and restore habitats—like wetlands, rivers, and coral reefs — to boost fish populations, recover threatened and endangered species, and support resilient coastal communities.”
You can view the full report here.