Back in October of 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order that sets the state on a path to restore and protect 30 percent of its lands and waters by 2030 (known as “30×30”). State agencies have asked for input on how to realize that vision.
When visiting California’s majestic redwoods, breathtaking coastline, or high Sierra peaks, it is not hard to understand that a thriving natural world offers us incredible beauty and a calming retreat. But saving nature and biodiversity provides us with so much more that we often overlook in our daily lives.
Forests clean our air and sequester carbon. Wetlands and riparian areas filter contaminants from our drinking water and absorb stormwaters, protecting us from harmful floods. Rivers and oceans provide us with healthy food and cool air temperatures. And all of these areas provide habitat for the critters that support us: pollinators that maintain our crops; birds that control rodent populations; animals that yield important medical breakthroughs; and even the worms and microbes that keep our soils healthy.
In embarking on this ambitious 30×30 initiative, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is urging the state to prioritize places for protection that address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, and that improve access to nature for historically nature-deprived communities.
Over 240 California-based scientists and researchers explained why in this letter supporting 30×30:
“As a globally significant biodiversity hotspot with an exceptional concentration of endemic and imperiled species, California has much to protect for the sake of our national and global communities. At least 686 California species are at risk of extinction and two-thirds of the state’s native plants are forecasted to lose 2 most of their range in the next 100 years (Loarie et al. 2008). California has lost more than 1 million acres of natural area due to development (Lee-Ashley et al. 2019). Climate change is reducing the ability of ecosystems to provide clean water and regulate water flows, limiting the ability of nature to buffer communities against disasters such as wildfires, storms, floods and marine heatwaves (Melillo et al. 2014). As California’s health and economic systems are challenged by the COVID-19 global pandemic, which likely was spread from animals to humans as a result of habitat loss and overexploitation (Johnson et al. 2020), the effect of the biodiversity crisis on people is more pronounced than ever.”
Restoring at-risk natural systems will help reverse the tide of extinctions, but it also fights climate change. Healthy natural landscapes store vast amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Nature-based solutions to climate change include restoring carbon-absorbing forests and wetlands, altering farming practices to restore soil’s capacity to sequester carbon, and protecting grasslands and oceans that already soak up an enormous amount of human-generated carbon emissions.
30×30 also provides a critical opportunity to correct historical disparities in access to nature. Many communities have been excluded from the decision-making processes around and benefits from conservation for too long. Communities of color are three times more likely than white communities to live in nature deprived places. The 30×30 initiative opens the door to a new, more inclusive model of conservation that is science-based, locally driven, and engages all stakeholders, from tribal and Indigenous communities to farmers, ranchers, and outdoors enthusiasts.
NRDC is asking California voters to tell the Newsom Administration that they value California’s natural resources, and want to see them better protected and restored.
This article by Katie Poole originally appeared on the NRDC website.
It’s reprinted here (with minor edits) by permission.