Lawmakers hellbent on making their own Manifest Destiny will gather in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Earth Day to hold an anti-environmentalist summit. The “Stop 30x30 Summit” is meant to address an ambitious plan proposed by the Biden administration to protect at least 30% of the U.S.’s land and 30% of its oceans by 2030. Instead of looking toward conservation and environmental justice for the sake of combatting climate change, the Republicans featured in this summit will mostly pitch bringing back colonialism by way of land grabs. According to Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, the 30x30 plan constitutes government overreach and could prevent states like his from making the most out of the land it has a history of destroying. So hurt was Ricketts that he wasn’t consulted by the Biden administration on this plan that he sent a letter to the president last year opposing 30x30 and has billed himself ever since as being the first governor to oppose the plan.
Ricketts eventually signed an executive order in an attempt to prevent the 30x30 plan from taking effect in Nebraska even though the Biden administration admitted the program would be voluntary, albeit with incentives offered for adopting it. In an interview with Nebraska Public Media, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue, comically explained that Ricketts was on to something since the government didn’t check with Nebraskans who use the lands its looking to protect. “We need to make sure that the people that use the land every day have good input, 'cause I think that we're the best decision-makers,” McHargue told the outlet. “The failure of the administration to reach out and have a solid conversation with those that actually control the land, that's concerning.” You know who really has great insight on America’s lands? The Indigenous community essential to the 30x30 plan.
Joining Ricketts for this anti-Earth Day summit as keynote speakers are former Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt, who literally spent years lobbying for the oil and gas industry before joining the Trump administration, and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican with a 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters who introduced a bill to prevent 30x30 from taking effect. Boebert, who recently flexed her political might to rally against adding gray wolves to the endangered species list, is pretty much the exact person I think of if I want to make sure I’m doing right by the environment. She’s like a bizarro barometer: If I’m doing something she hates, chances are it’s for the benefit of the planet. Fellow anti-30x30 bill co-sponsor Sen. David Cramer of Nebraska will also be in attendance, as will Beck Norton Dunlop, who the website tells me is a Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow with the Heritage Foundation—an honor I wouldn’t bestow on my worst enemy.
This $75-per-ticket event ($125 per person if you didn’t buy before April 7) is a fairly clear attempt to continue lining the pockets of its organizers, the American Stewards of Liberty. According to research from Accountable.US, the group “is largely funded by taxpayer dollars, raking in over $700k from county governments in recent years. It also received a $54,000 forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020. The nonprofit uses the vast majority of its money—94%—to pay hefty salaries to its husband-wife executive duo, Margaret and Dan Byfield.” The organization has consistently pushed back against conservation efforts, raking in donations in the process. In Kern County, Utah, alone, the group received $483,000 from officials who wanted their expertise in blocking the 30x30 plan. It’s anyone’s guess just how much the American Stewards of Liberty will receive for this event, where sponsorship registration ranges from $1,000 to $10,000.