30 x 30 speaker draws large crowd in Valentine

VALENTINE, Neb. — While there were a few empty seats toward the middle of the Valentine High School Auditorium, the walls and hallways outside were crowded with ranchers, county commissioners and members of the public looking to learn what’s all behind President Joe Biden’s “30 x 30” agenda.

After a brief introduction by Sandhills storyteller Trent Loos, Margaret Hage Byfield, executive director of American Stewards of Liberty and the daughter of “Sagebrush Rebel” Wayne Byfield, took the stage and laid out a swiftly moving agenda by the federal government to seize control of America’s working lands.

“There are a group of people who do not think we are capable of running our own lives,” Byfield said. “For the greater good, they think they need to make decisions over how you use your land.”

“Then there’s us — as the landowner, who lives every day on that land, who takes care of that land, knows all of it’s seasons, and have grown up on that land for two, three, four, fifth and sixth generations — knows how to utilize and better care for that land than any group of ‘smart’ biologists in Washington D.C.,” she said. “That’s really what we’re fighting.”

Byfield said that when Vice President Kamala Harris was still in the U.S. Senate, she introduced a resolution that would put 30 percent of the U.S. in permanent conservation by 2030. Deb Haaland, former U.S. Congresswoman for New Mexico and Biden’s appointment to Secretary of the Department of Interior, introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Biden cemented the idea in one of his first executive orders on combating climate change shortly after taking office, which shut down oil and gas development on federal lands among other things.


The idea behind 30 x 30 was plucked from a report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal D.C. think tank funded by George Soros and Michael Bloomberg and founded by former Hillary Clinton adviser John Podesta. It’s current director, Neera Tanden was initially picked as Biden’s director for the Office of Management and Budget, however, withdrew her name after her confirmation stalled before the U.S. Senate. However, while Tanden’s appointment was stopped, other CAP staffers are being placed in unelected government positions in the Department of Interior.

“The philosophy behind this is backed by this thinking that if we don’t do something by 2030, it’s over for us as humans,” Byfield said.

However, Byfield said that the Biden executive order did not cite constitutional or legislative authority that backs up the ability for the federal government to put 30 percent of the U.S. in conservation, nor did it cite the science that backs up how placing 30 percent of the U.S. in conservation would remedy the climate crisis.

Byfield said that a Department of Interior fact sheet issued shortly after the executive order was signed said that roughly 60 percent of the land in the U.S. is in its natural state, but that the DOI argued that only 12 percent of the land is in permanent protection, with “a football field worth of that land being lost to development every 30 seconds.”

She said that language mirrored the CAP report, which explained more in detail.

“With 2.27 billion acres in America, 30 percent would be 681 million acres, and 12 percent would be 272 million,” she said. “Already 21 percent of our nation is federal land, but they’re only including the acres that are protected under federal restrictions in that 12 percent.”

The CAP report says that national parks, wilderness areas, permanent conservation easements on private land, state parks, national wildlife refuges, and national monuments are the 12 percent of the United States as “permanently protected in its natural state.”

However, if a football field of land is lost to development every 30 seconds, that’d be about 3,000 acres per day, or 1.1 million acres a year. If the federal government’s goal is to get 30 percent permanent conservation by 2030, according to the math in the CAP report, 1.1 million acres a year is only .5 percent of total U.S. acres.

“That’s all we’re losing according to their math, and that doesn’t sound like a crisis to me,” Byfield said. “And that’s only 1.7 percent of the land the federal government already owns.

“The crisis they talk about really isn’t matching the numbers,” she said.


However, while the normal bureaucratic process of studies, committees and stakeholder groups sometimes take years of hearings and meetings before a single bit of information is released, Byfield said that the federal government is moving with urgency, starting with a reversal of a Trump-DOI policy that required the department to sit down at the table with local governments before acquiring lands.

Other political developments shaping around the issue give the appearance that the voices of property owners and local governments, especially those in rural areas, are being silenced in a push to implement the 30 x 30 agenda as rapidly as possible.

But whose lands are being targeted exactly?

So much about 30 x 30 is still up in the air, however, one possible tactic the federal government might employ is badgering landowners who are adjacent to existing federal lands into entering into permanent conservation easements, echoing back to the so-called “Buffalo Commons” concept floated during the 1990s which sought to turn 139,000 square miles of the Great Plains back into native prairie.

“Whoever is behind the curtain knows which parts of the country they want,” Byfield said during the public question portion of the presentation. “They like to expand the areas around anywhere there might be an endangered species.”

Numerous county commissioners mentioned during the public comment that the impact of existing federal lands on their counties has represented millions in lost property taxes, and has left them with a tenuous relationship with the agencies in charge of maintaining those lands.

The burdens upon local fire and rescue districts, as well as NRDs seeking to maintain and manage resources are further complicated on the edges of federal policy. For example, if a fire breaks out on private land, a local fire district will attempt to extinguish it and protect that private property. However, the policy on federal lands is to contain the fire and let it burn itself out, a management practice that has drawn ire from neighboring landowners when the fire escapes and tax resources from the local governments that aren’t always reimbursed for their role in combating those fires until U.S. Forest Service crews can arrive.


But Nebraska is on good-footing in one specific regard: state law grants authority to local governments to approve and deny conservation easements when those easements are at odds with a county’s comprehensive plan. And that’s the first line of defense for those wanting to battle 30 x 30. While Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson have joined the fight against the 30 x 30 agenda, Trent Loos warned to not just leave it up to the higher ups. It needs to be fought on the local level by local people.

“I’m in my 20th year of a fight,” Loos said. “The biggest problem we have is we come together tonight and we’ve got all of this energy, then we go home tomorrow and have the same problems at home that we had yesterday and we lose the energy we have now.

“Keep the momentum going, because once it dies, we’re in trouble,” he said.

To learn more about organizing local governments and fighting 30 x 30, visit


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