Opportunity to Comment: American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas

February 15, 2022 

Dear Members,

We’re reaching out to let you know about an opportunity to comment on an interagency effort to develop an American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas. Under President Biden’s Executive Order 14008, the administration has established an important national goal to conserve at least 30 percent of US lands and waters by 2030 (i.e., the “30x30” initiative). One of the principal tools being created for this initiative is the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, which will be a publicly accessible map and database tool that measures progress on these conservation efforts.

The interagency group creating the Atlas is developing criteria for what types of land, land management, and data should be tracked and included toward this conservation goal. To this end, the group is soliciting input from the public until March 7, 2022, on several important questions, including:

What stewardship actions should be considered in tracking conservation progress in addition to lands designated for permanent protection?

What land attributes should be tracked in the Atlas? (e.g., ecological function, representation of species and habitat, resilience to future disturbance, durability of current management status, etc.)

How can the Atlas best reflect the contributions of State, local, Tribal, territorial, and private lands?

We believe it is important that working and managed lands be reflected in the Atlas database because of the critical role they play in maintaining healthy, sustainable forests. Active management offers an adaptive response to habitat creation and forest resilience that is not offered by designated lands alone. We encourage SAF members to comment on the development of the Atlas and would like to offer several key talking points. 

Measuring progress through the Atlas will be key to achieving 30x30 and to understanding what success looks like on the ground. Conservation in the Atlas should be understood as a continuum from designated lands to managed and working lands, which will ensure that the Atlas reflects all lands contributing to the conservation of forests and rangelands. 

Preventing forest conversion and maintaining quality habitat for fish and wildlife requires a holistic, all-lands approach. The interagency group developing the Atlas should work with and through private landowners, federal and state agencies, tribes, and local communities. 

Private working forests account for more than 70% of net forest carbon sequestration in the US and are home to 60% of our at-risk species. Working lands can be compatible with conservation goals and will be critical to the success of the Atlas. Collaboration between private forest owners, NGOs, and state and federal agencies is proven to drive conservation outcomes and can provide an important tool for tracking progress across ownership boundaries.

Forestry, wildlife, and rangelands professionals should continue to play a key role in decisions about the future of our nation’s forests and rangelands. The data and technical standards included in the Atlas should reflect the work of scientists and practitioners creating adaptive management plans for climate mitigation, ecosystem resilience, and human needs.

For more information on topics like managing forests for carbon and forest biodiversity, take a look at the position statements that guide SAF’s advocacy and outreach. And for more information on SAF’s position regarding 30x30, please see our joint letters to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Interior (DOI) that highlight the role of scientists and practitioners in conserving our forests and rangelands.

The deadline to submit comments on the Atlas is March 7, 2022. 

Learn more about the initiative and submit your comment.