As we start the year of 2021 with a renewed sense of hope for the future of our environment and public lands, President Biden has taken charge and enacted a fleet of Executive Orders paving the way for the United States to become a leader in the climate movement. While Executive Orders are a great first step, we must push for more to follow. Below, we hope to outline a couple of items enacted by our current President that may have impacts on our local North Fork public lands.
Climate Order from President Biden
On Wednesday, January 27th, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) titled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” This signifies a monumental shift in environmental policy from the Executive branch as compared to Biden’s predecessor. While the EO is quite lengthy, we hope to have simplified some pieces of the order for all to understand below. This is not all that is included in the EO, and if time allows we recommend reading the entire document in its entirety (it may bring you to tears, as it did some WSCC staff).
Pause new oil and gas leases on federal land
Biden’s EO pauses new leasing on federal lands, giving us time to fix the leasing system so that we, the American people, can get fair returns on our investments and protect our communities in the long-term. It also gives us time to develop plans for meeting climate goals, diversifying our economies, and protecting our communities. This pause allows the Biden administration to review the broken program for the first time in nearly four decades and begin fixing it for good. It’s a critical opportunity to chart a new path – one that no longer prioritizes the oil and gas industry over everyone else.
Although this EO does not completely alleviate the uncertainty around oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley, it gives us time as a community to continue working to permanently protect our home. We still have challenging work contesting the 2020 Bureau of Land Management RMP that would allow for development throughout the entirety of the watershed with little restrictions. This EO pauses any new lease sales, meaning no new oil and gas leases can be announced, but development on pre-existing authorized leases is still allowed. In the North Fork watershed, there is approximately 110,000 acres of public land currently authorized in oil and gas leases on public and private land, calculated from data received from the BLM.
Pledging to protect 30% of land by 2030
Tieing land conservation to climate change, the EO also put American on a path to protect 30% of land and water by 2030. Dubbed “30 by 30”, this idea, which began as the “Global Deal for Nature”, would conserve land and water across the United States to mitigate increased fragmentation of wildlife habitats, protect land from development, and conserve our natural resources like clean air and water.
As the Biden Administration looks across the country for ways to protect more land and water, WSCC wants to continue to remind him that the North Fork Valley provides a place to do so. Through efforts like the Keep the North Fork Fruitful campaign, we are looking for people to help us spread the word. If you would like to help us, please be in touch.
Interagency working group on coal and power plant communities and how to provide a just transition
As the Biden Administration looks to transition from being reliant on fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy to power our economy, communities such as the North Fork who were dependent on jobs from the coal industry must not be forgotten in the process. The EO creates a “Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization” devoted to identifying and providing resources to “revitalize the economies of coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities.”
Our local North Fork communities have successfully transitioned to a diverse economy dependent on family farms and ranches, agritourism, and sustainable outdoor recreation. We can be a leader and a model for other communities to show them how it can be done.
Working to reduce emissions from farms
The Biden Administration has identified the agricultural economy as a specific place to focus time and resources in order to offset carbon emissions. The EO states that the Department of Agriculture will determine “how to best use Department of Agriculture programs, funding and financing capacities, and other authorities, and how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices that decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change and result in additional, measurable, and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration and that source sustainable bioproducts and fuels.”
This Executive Order should be the first step of many to follow. The broad policies outlined must be continued with discrete actions by Congress to implement the programs we outlined here and others in the EO to ensure a better climate future for the next generations.
Re-entering the Paris Climate Accord
On Day One, before his massive climate Executive Order outlined above, President Biden ordered that the US rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, the largest international effort to curb climate change. The accord aims to avoid the most dire climate change scenarios by keeping global temperatures from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 when compared to pre-industrial times. The United States is the second-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, only behind China.
Lauren Boebert Appointed to the House Natural Resources Committee
Colorado District 3 Congresswoman Lauren Boebert will follow in her predecessor Scott Tipton’s footsteps and sit on the House Natural Resources Committee, along with the House Budget committee. From her press release, “[she’ll] pursue policies that increase access and ensure multiple-use for sportsmen and other public land enthusiasts, allow for responsible energy production while protecting the environment, reduce our dependency on rare earths and critical minerals from China, empower tribes, increase storage and protect precious water supplies, and promote job creation while removing unnecessary regulations and red tape.”
State of Colorado files a lawsuit against the BLM
On Friday, January 15th, the State of Colorado filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over its Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO), which includes the North Fork Valley and Delta County. The suit follows other actions the state has taken to challenge the final plan, including the filing of a Governor’s Consistency Review, as well as a formal protest from the Department of Natural Resources.
In the suit, the state argues that William Perry Pendley, who was never formally approved by the US Senate as director of the BLM, did not have the authority to approve the RMP in April 2020. Last July, the state of Montana won a similar lawsuit that blocked the implementation of three land management plans due to Pendley’s unlawful tenure.