Protecting Our Land and Water
May 5, 2021 | View PDF
Here in the Cornhusker State, agriculture and conservation go hand in hand.
Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists. Agricultural families in our state have been growing crops and tending livestock for generations.
They know their land and animals better than anyone else and care deeply about them. Their livelihood depends on ensuring the land remains fertile — that’s why they are always working to improve it so that the next generation can continue their way of life.
Despite this close connection to the land, the Biden-Harris Administration does not trust Nebraskans to responsibly manage our natural resources. They want greater federal government control over our land and water. On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order on the climate which set a goal of restricting “at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030” (30 x 30). Right now, only 3 percent of land in Nebraska is publicly owned. Achieving the goal of the President’s 30 x 30 program would likely require far-reaching interventions by the federal government — either to take away private property or to subject landowners to intrusive regulations.
The President’s radical 30 x 30 plan is alarming and unconstitutional. That’s why I led a group of 15 Governors who sent a letter to President Biden last week opposing the plan. We reminded the President that he has no authority to carry out the 30 x 30 program. We also warned the President that pursuing the goals of the 30 x 30 plan would violate property rights and harm the U.S. economy. Additionally, we submitted more than a dozen specific questions asking the President to be more transparent about the 30 x 30 program. Since issuing his climate executive order three months ago, the President has given no indication as to how he plans to achieve the 30 x 30 goal. Nor has the White House answered questions about plans to implement 30 x 30.
Engagement with states is critical. Since our state’s founding, Nebraska has successfully managed our water and land by protecting private property rights. We’ve shown that we can successfully grow Nebraska while being a good steward of our natural resources. For example, our state sits on top of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest underground water resources in the world. We’ve maintained the aquifer at virtually the same average water level it had in 1950, while developing into a global leader in agricultural irrigation. Since the 1960s, our ranchers have contributed to a 66 percent increase in national beef production, while helping the U.S. cattle industry reduce its carbon footprint by 40 percent. Working together, we can conserve natural resources by finding ways to be good stewards of them instead of locking them out of productivity.
Nebraska’s achievements in conservation stand out in national measures of environmental health. Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report ranked Nebraska as the sixth-best state in the nation for the quality of our natural environment. By contrast, the State of Delaware — which President Biden represented as a U.S. Senator from 1973 to 2009 — was sixth-worst overall, and #47 for pollution. The State of California, where Vice President Kamala Harris held statewide office for a decade, ranked No. 35 and was fourth-worst in the country for air and water quality. Why would Nebraskans cede responsibility for our natural resources to leaders of states who’ve done a poor job of managing their own environment?
The President’s climate executive order takes the wrong approach. Instead of supporting our people who live on the land, own it, and understand it, the 30 x 30 program is poised to take a top-down federal government approach. In the coming weeks, I encourage Nebraskans to be on the lookout in their community for potential federal interventions or other attempts to make land less available. Over the years, environmental groups have purchased land and transferred it to federal agencies. Others may try to use perpetual easements to limit land use or to bar livestock production. President Biden may decide to use federal agencies to exert more control over existing public lands, or to expand current restrictions.
Whatever form it takes, the 30 x 30 plan is likely to diminish our freedoms and hamstring growth in Nebraska. That’s why we must work together to stop it. When the federal government encroached on our rights in the past, we successfully fought back. In 2015, the State of Nebraska sued the Obama Administration when it overstepped its legal authority by issuing the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. The WOTUS rule had needlessly burdened states with regulations, while unconstitutionally extending the federal government’s power to regulate private lands. We won in court on that issue, and we’re prepared to fight against any new federal restrictions that infringe on property rights in Nebraska.
If you want more information about how the President’s climate policy will affect Nebraska, please email [email protected] or call 402-471-2244.