A New Administration: The First 10 Days

Jan 29th, 2021 Written by Scott Groene

The Earth and all its inhabitants face the dire threats of climate change and the loss of nature, including extinctions. And in its first ten days the Biden administration has already taken meaningful steps to address those threats. It isn’t our job at SUWA to cheerlead for a particular administration, it’s our job to push them to go further. But we are very encouraged–even excited–by the Biden administration’s start.

This administration has set a 60-day target for review of Trump’s illegal evisceration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, with the clear intention of undoing those historic wrongs–and perhaps going a step further, with the larger boundaries originally proposed by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.

It has hit the pause button on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and offshore waters to consider the climate impacts.

It will review the Trump administration’s misdeeds, including the illegal elimination of environmental analysis and public involvement in controversial vegetation removal projects.

It will hold for 60 days a raft of last-minute Trump malfeasance including: issuance of oil/gas leases and drilling permits, mining plans of operation, decisions regarding RS 2477 claims, and approval of land exchanges.

And the Biden administration has set as a goal protecting 30 percent of our land and waters by the year 2030. This visionary goal will slow the loss of biodiversity and ameliorate the impacts of climate change.

Getting to 30×30 is essential, and the goal can only be reached by protecting lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), our nation’s largest land manager. America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act is an important part of getting there.

This will take a multipronged effort, and on the executive branch side, 30×30 goals can best be reached through the establishment of new wilderness study areas. This could bring real protection to tens of millions of acres of BLM lands across the American West, including millions of acres here in Utah.

The predictable and disappointing response from Utah’s governor and congressional delegation was denouncement of Biden’s efforts to confront the existential threat of climate change. Their persistence in clinging to past economies threatens our children’s future and the wellbeing of the planet.

There are big challenges ahead. Many of the administration’s goals will be difficult to implement in these divided States of America. The Utah politicians and those like them will fight for the status quo that seems favored by the rigid base they face in primaries. But the Biden administration clearly intends to manage public lands in a new way, following the guiding principle of addressing the climate and nature crises.