Photo of a man flyfishing in a pond in Rocky Mountain National Park, mountains in background.
Purple Mountain Majesties A visitor fly fishing on Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. In 2016 the National Park Service celebrated a 100 year anniversary. © Nick Hall

Land & Water Stories

Conserving America the Beautiful: An Ambitious Vision We Can Work Together to Achieve

Tom Cors Director of Lands for U.S. Government Relations

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On the 4th of July, we reflect on the founding of our country and the accomplishments, innovations, and triumphs over adversity we have achieved together as a people. We often do this while getting outside and enjoying the nation’s beautiful, natural spaces that we treasure.

July 4th is a time to celebrate the can-do, determined, hopeful ethos of a country that—time and time again—has come together to beat the odds.  Today, we need to call on that same ethos to act together to save the very places and resources we enjoy now and will rely upon for generations to come. 

The health and vitality of our land and water is under greater stress than at any other time in human history.

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The future of people and our world depends on bold, collective action.

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Right now, despite efforts to improve conservation and management, the health and vitality of our land and water is under greater stress than at any other time in human history. The precipitous decline in biodiversity – the complex and wondrous system of life that sustains us all – is one of our greatest challenges, jeopardizing food and water supplies and undermining global social and economic stability. To meet this challenge, we must do more. We must come together and act now.

The future of people and of the natural world depends on bold, collective action. By working together to conserve, restore, and protect that natural world we can maintain the productivity of our working lands and waters, clean the air we breathe and the water we drink, and ensure that we and our children and grandchildren can thrive and enjoy the wonders of the natural world that is the foundation of all life. 

Photo of two cowboys riding on the plains.
Oh Beautiful For spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, we can save the places we love and need for future generations. Parker Ranch in California was conserved in 2008. © Ian Shive

To do our part to meet this challenge, the United States has pledged to conserve and restore 30 percent of its lands and waters by 2030 through an initiative known as America the Beautiful. This will take a collaborative effort literally from the ground up that includes us all -  farmers, foresters, fishers and ranchers, people living and working in rural and urban areas, and Indigenous peoples.

By working together to conserve our land, water, and biodiversity, we are conserving the resources that sustain us and our way of life. Our food, health, and economy are all inextricably bound to and depend on our natural world. If we want to sustain all of this, we must act. 

Photo of Vermont mountains in summer.
Our Lands, Our Souls Crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea! The view from Glebe Mountain's Timber Ridge in southern Vermont. © David Barnum

There is reason for hope. We've already made significant progress toward this goal. Our model for conservation is unique in the world, and we have many conservation tools at our disposal.

One such tool is the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which uses a portion of revenues from offshore energy production to invest in conservation throughout the nation. At no cost to the taxpayers, this fund has helped expand national parks, restore wetlands, conserve ecologically important landscapes, protect wildlife habitats, and expand outdoor recreation access.

One year ago, the U.S. Congress gave this important conservation tool a huge boost with its passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Considered the largest investment in conservation in decades, the act fully and permanently funds the LWCF at $900 million a year and invests billions in maintenance for national parks and other public lands. This act is already doing more than ever before. Its projects not only help preserve nature, they create jobs, rebuild local economies, and protect places for all to recreate and explore. 

Safeguarding our country’s biodiversity is a challenge we can and must overcome to sustain our ways of life and ensure future generations continue to say: “America the Beautiful.”

Congress came together for a once-in-a-generation achievement for conservation—and we can do it again.

Conserving 30 percent of the nation's lands and waters by 2030 requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. It will require a comprehensive, wide-ranging  strategy driven by the best-available science and implemented  through the collaborative efforts of us all..

Conserving and restoring lands, ocean and waters at this scale requires a broader view of conservation. That view includes traditional protected areas, like national parks and marine sanctuaries, but also goes beyond them.

Amplifying the role of working lands and waters, through sustainable, climate-friendly practices, and working to stop the unsustainable use of lands and waters will also be critical.

As we celebrate Independence Day and get outdoors this summer, we must commit ourselves to achieving this important goal. Safeguarding our country’s biodiversity is a challenge we can and must overcome to sustain our ways of life and ensure future generations continue to say: “America the Beautiful.” 

Tom Cors is the Director of Lands for U.S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy.