A year ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom set a bold goal of conserving 30% of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030. President Biden and other leaders around the world also set conservation targets of at least 30%. This goal, known as the 30 × 30, could profoundly transform the Bay Area by creating additional parks and open spaces with more equitable access for all communities, protecting biodiversity and advancing projects that will make the region more resilient to climate change.
The Bay Area land conservation groups have been working towards a similar ambitious goal for years. Our goal is to conserve 50% of the region’s land by 2050. Fifty percent is what we need to enable the nature and the extraordinary flora and fauna of the Bay Area to thrive in our 105 cities. This is what we need for clean air, clean water, forest fire prevention, drought adaptation, flood protection and natural spaces for our physical and mental health. And we must achieve this goal by 2050 when the effects of climate change are felt by us and nature even more than they are today.
TOGETHER Bay Area members are actively working to implement this bold and achievable goal. Our members are indigenous tribes and groups, nonprofits and government agencies – nearly 70 of them – all working for healthy lands, people and communities. And they’re partnering with state agencies like the State Coastal Conservancy to implement programs and projects that conserve land for wildlife, recreation, and agriculture and support the 50 × 50 and 30 × goals. 30.
We want the state’s 30 × 30 initiative to be successful. For this to happen, we need collective action – including the governor and his administration, the legislature and organizations working for climate resilience across the state – to incorporate four factors into the design of the initiative. and its implementation through legislation and on the ground in communities across the state.
First, the indigenous peoples have maintained and managed this place for thousands of years. Developing partnerships with tribes and groups is essential to advance the 30 × 30 goals and reconnect the original stewards with their lands. State and conservation organizations can help right injustices by supporting land return in a variety of ways, including ownership, cooperative management, and stewardship agreements. This has many benefits, including reducing the risk of catastrophic forest fires through traditional land stewardship practices.
Second, consistent funding from the state is essential. Projects that advance 30 × 30 will either stagnate or never materialize without reliable sources of funding. Significant investments in agencies such as the State Coastal Conservancy will advance multi-benefit projects, such as the India Basin Shoreline Park in San Francisco, Coyote Valley in Santa Clara County, and the Restore Hayward Marsh project in San Francisco. ‘East Bay.
Third, effective conservation is a long game. Land and water should not be viewed as conserved without securing support and funding for stewardship that builds resilience. Healthy lands require active and ongoing management, just as indigenous peoples have done for thousands of years. And this cannot happen without funding for stewardship.
Finally, we must facilitate the restoration of the environment. Barriers and timeframes for permits and regulations for habitat restoration and climate resilience projects need to be reduced significantly. Let’s cut the green regulatory tape to get more restoration work done sooner.
Momentum is building for the state’s 30 × 30 initiative led by the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA). Thousands of people across the state participated in 14 public workshops organized by CNRA over the past year. Dozens of experts have been brought together to produce thoughtful recommendations. And there is political will for the 30 × 30, as evidenced by its inclusion in this year’s historic budget excess spending. But we need more.
One year younger and nine more. Time is running out and we must act quickly to conserve our state’s unique biodiversity and create a resilient bay region that is best suited to protect us from the catastrophic impacts of climate change such as sea level rise, floods, extreme heat, droughts and severe forest fires. We can meet the 30 × 30 goals statewide and 50 × 50 in the Bay Area with strong funding and bold policy changes. Together we can do it.
Annie Burke is the Executive Director of TOGETHER Bay Area.