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“Conservation” – that seems to be the word for these days! You have heard me harp about the importance of conserving our wa­tersheds. After all, our water is one of the most important items in our lives along with air and food, so it is obviously important to “Conserve and Protect” it, right? Presi­dent Biden was to sign an executive order on Jan. 27 where in Sec. 216, “Conserving Our Nation’s Lands and Waters”, it directed the Secretary of Interior and Agriculture and others to make recommendations for steps “to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030,” and referred to as 30 X 30. Now that brings up a lot of questions, like what has the Soil Conservation Service (now Natu­ral Resource Conservation Service, NRCS) been doing for the last 86 years since it was established in 1935? What does “conserve” and “protect” mean? Those words mean dif­ferent things to different people. Who con­serves and protects and how?

Where are the 30 percent of lands that are alleged to have not been conserved and protected for the last 86 years? After think­ing about it, I found that the United States is about 2.27 billion acres, which is about 308 million square miles (30 European countries would fit inside the U.S.), and as of 2003, only 108 million acres or 4.5 percent has been fully “developed.” There are already over 623 million acres of federally held lands that are supposed to have been conserved and protected. That is interesting to contem­plate since it is not supposed to own ANY public land within a state, per the Constitu­tion. The new term being used is to “perma­nently protect” the lands. Protect what lands from what, nature or man? It should mean, protect from the government!

Looking a little closer, 30 per­cent of the United States’ 2.27 bil­lion acres comes to about 681 million acres. The federal government already controls 623+ mil­lion acres and grow­ing, so this raises the question, where is the 30 percent they are proposing to conserve and protect? Does that include the federally held lands? Where will the extra 58+ million acres come from? The private forests, ranches and farms have already been conserved and protected over the past 86 years better than the federal lands. Some tax-exempt environmental cor­porations are saying 50 percent of the land must be “conserved and protected.” Well, that would mean another 512 million acres to be removed from private land “conserva­tion” and agriculture production.

In reading some of the background pro­motions for this 30 x 30 directive, numerous corporations calling themselves environ­mental protectors have focused on saving life on the planet from climate change by removing or limiting access to and use of public lands and resources. This has actu­ally been happening for years by establish­ing special federal programs, like Wilderness Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, National Monuments, National Parks, National Wild­life Areas, Endangered Species Act, Natural Study Areas, National Conservation Areas, Archaeological Protection Act and many more. Conservation and protection of the lands and resources within these designa­tions has been poor at best and even pro­hibited in many cases (i.e., wilderness areas). Now they plan to put 30 to 50 percent of the lands of the United States off limits for active management for conservation and protection of the watersheds? Why is there such a big push for more wilderness areas and other federal “designations” to “per­manently” lock out management and use of the watersheds for real “conservation wise use”?

Well, as you might guess, I have a theory. Today’s political battles in lands and natural resources are the result of programs started in the early 1990s at the Earth Summit in 1992 and referred to as “Agenda 21,” the goals of which were to be in place by this year, 2021. The overall goal was and is for the governments to be in control of the lands and resources, thereby easily control­ling the people for a “sustainable” utopian society. The foundation has been well laid and the new extended time line is for com­pletion by, you guessed it, 2030. One of the “tools” being used is the “Wildlands Proj­ect,” which is a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that lobby govern­ment agencies policies and actions, to “save the Earth’s ecosystems.” WHAT do they propose? Quoting their statement, “we must protect half of the Earth’s ecosystems and wildlife from destruction if the diversity of life, including hu­mankind, is to survive into the distant future. We are making progress, but clearly have a long way to go.”

One of their major projects affecting us is the “Western Wildway,” which is a desig­nated strip of land beginning down in Mex­ico and extending north generally along the Rocky Mountain chain with varying widths of 2-400 miles more or less up to the Bering Sea. Interestingly, in Colorado the eastern boundary is along the Continental Divide, not on the Eastern Slope, which explains the introduction of wolves to be only on the Western slope.

The goal is to gain ownership and/or control of as much land and water as pos­sible tying into federal designated parks, monuments, National Conservation Areas, wilderness areas, conservation easements, etc… Gaining full government control of the lands and resources is paramount to create the desired humongous wilderness/wildlife natural park devoid of man’s influence and use.

This seems kind of costly and expensive, but there is a central player that is a 501(C-3) non-profit environmental corporation, The Nature Conservancy, that has been referred to by some as the government’s real estate agent. The TNC is reported to be the larg­est non-government landowner in the world, with assets around 6.5 billion, and now has past Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell as a key board member, and a member of TNC working on the Colorado River Com­pact which will impact the future of agricul­ture and water rights of the entire state. My, what a tangled web has been woven while we slept.

Dexter Gill is a retired forest manager who worked for private industry, three Western state forestry agencies, and the Navajo Nation forestry department. He writes from Lewis, Colo.

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From Dexter Gill.