As development and consumption drive some plant and animal species toward extinction, two of New Mexico’s representatives on Capitol Hill want to ramp up conservation of land and oceans by decade’s end.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Deb Haaland participated Monday in an online conference on building national biodiversity, hosted by University of New Mexico professor Subhankar Banerjee. Both politicians highlighted their resolutions in each chamber that answer calls from scientists to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. land and ocean from development or extraction by 2030.
“We’re at a critical time,” Udall said. “Our life support system is threatened. When you ask the scientists, they say we need to save the natural world. We need to step forward and protect 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030.”
Udall said he is working on legislation to create protected wildlife corridors to allow animals to migrate safely from disasters or other causes of displacement. During the conference, Halaand pointed to carbon-neutral public lands as an immediate step the federal government could take in addition to expanding conservation.
“Right now 25 percent of the carbon we emit into the atmosphere comes from our public lands. That is entirely too high,” Halaand said. “We have way too many extractive energy leases and not enough renewable energy leases.”
The resolution, which would not have the force of law, says the United States lost a football field of natural areas to development every 30 seconds from 2001-17. It also says the United States and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion or 29 percent of their birds since 1970 and around 4,000 animal and plant species in the U.S. will go extinct in the next decades.
The resolution also states 12 percent of the land area and 26 percent of ocean territory in the United States is protected from development or extraction.
Udall and Halaand were joined during the conference by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, who spoke about a similar effort led by the United Nations to protect 30 percent of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030 and have countries pledge to invest 1 percent of their gross domestic product in conservation. Sala noted the U.S. government is not currently part of the global discussion around funding for enforcing conservation policies.
“We estimate we need about $140 billion per year to have 30 percent of the planet protected. ... One-hundred forty billion per year is less than what the world spends on video games,” Sala said. “The money is there. The question is not if we can afford to. It’s if we can afford not to.”