Conserving the Nature of America to Protect Wildlife and Stabilize the Climate

Number 2021-01

WHEREAS, wild species are declining in the United States and globally, with habitat loss and degradation a leading cause of species declines and extinctions as cumulative impacts of many human activities are resulting in a majority of indicators of ecosystems and biodiversity showing rapid decline; and

WHEREAS, increasing climate change poses a grave threat to wildlife and people, but ecosystems also have the capacity to provide “natural climate solutions” by sequestering and storing carbon that otherwise would enter the atmosphere and contribute to our rapidly changing climate, and buffering the effects of storms and sea level rise, among others; and

WHEREAS, addressing the twin biodiversity and climate crises will require bold action, and the international scientific community has identified the need to strategically conserve and connect at least 30% of the Earth’s natural habitats to reverse further biodiversity loss and help stabilize the climate; and

WHEREAS, consistent with this emerging scientific consensus, Executive Order 14008, signed by President Biden in February 2021, lays out an ambitious vision for conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 (referred to as the “30×30 Initiative” or “America the Beautiful”); and

WHEREAS, the National Wildlife Federation’s FY2018-FY2021 Strategic Plan aligns with this vision, with NWF’s plan emphasizing the need to protect, restore, and connect wildlife habitat across America, and including a goal to “expand and connect protected areas nationwide to sustain healthy fish and wildlife populations and to allow for seasonal migrations and climate-driven range shifts”; and

WHEREAS, the National Wildlife Federation is proud of its long and strong commitment to balancing conservation and enjoyment of nature in ways that are guided by science, promote public health, happiness and prosperity, and are equitable between communities and generations; and

WHEREAS, the President’s executive order has visionary promise to unite the nation in advancing these common aspirations to conserve America’s wildlife heritage while improving the lives of the present generation and better assure potential benefits for future generations to come; and

WHEREAS, the enduring success of America the Beautiful will depend on its thoughtful design and implementation, the engagement and support of the American people, and the continued commitment of funding and maintenance to sustain its objectives over time; and

WHEREAS, the National Wildlife Federation embraces the linkages between the collective work of sportsmen and women to conserve fish and wildlife species and their habitats, and the establishment of an ambitious global biodiversity conservation principle through America the Beautiful; and

WHEREAS, private lands provide essential habitat for many of the nation’s species and ecosystems, private property owners contribute substantially to the stewardship and conservation of nature, and there is a long history of incentivizing wildlife-friendly stewardship on private lands in America; and

WHEREAS, achieving long-lasting and durable biodiversity conservation outcomes requires a range of stewardship approaches, including active management in some ecosystems; and

WHEREAS, the National Wildlife Federation supports conservation goals that recognize and include lands and waters already conserved in public trust by state, federal, or local law or regulation, including those conserved by each state’s fish and wildlife management agency through funds made available by hunting and fishing license fees in that state and excise taxes from the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and

WHEREAS, lands and waters currently available for wildlife-dependent recreation, including hunting and fishing, should remain open and available for participation in these activities, and proactively expanded wherever practicable. Reduced access is only justified by science-based concerns for the conservation of species affected by the recreational activity.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation, at its Annual Meeting assembled June 8-12, 2021, endorses this bold vision for conserving the nature of America and calls upon the Administration to employ a science-based, inclusive, and equitable approach for effectively conserving and restoring the lands and waters needed to reverse declines in U.S. biodiversity and help stabilize the climate; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation supports the use of landscape-scale approaches to conservation that apply the scientific principles of representation, resilience, and connectivity as the basis for designing and implementing a well-connected network of conservation lands and waters; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation calls for the initiative to take into consideration and apply to the full array of U.S. ecosystems including terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems, and across rural, suburban, and urban areas; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation calls for the initiative to adopt climate-smart approaches to the design and stewardship of the conservation network, by seeking to enhance the climate resilience of conserved lands and waters, by safeguarding areas that serve as carbon strongholds, and by restoring the capacity for natural systems to sequester and store carbon, consistent with other ecological goals; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation supports efforts to reduce ecological fragmentation by maintaining and restoring habitat linkages and migratory corridors, including through the strategic and effective use of wildlife crossing structures on public highways, marine protected areas in public waters, and other effective conservation management tools; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation acknowledges the importance of private as well as public lands in achieving this conservation vision, and calls for outreach and substantive engagement with private landowners, and the use of incentives to encourage the voluntary application of effective, long-lasting, and durable area-based conservation measures on private lands; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation acknowledges the deep connection and respect of tribal nations for their sovereign lands and waters, recognizes the role of tribal lands in sustaining the nation’s wildlife and natural ecosystems, and calls for implementation of the initiative in ways that respect treaty rights and involve Tribes to maximize benefits to conservation of cultural resources and the lifeways associated with those; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the National Wildlife Federation supports implementation of the policy in such ways that allow for the use and enjoyment of lands and waters, including maintaining and expanding access for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation, to the greatest extent compatible with conservation of their ecological functions.