The new America the Beautiful Challenge will help tribes, territories, states and NGOs apply for grants for conservation projects. The Biden administration plans to use the new $1 billion program to help reach its goal of conserving 30% of U.S. waters and lands by 2030.
Over the next five years, an initial $440 million will fund the challenge. The Biden administration hopes that philanthropic and private donations will boost America the Beautiful to its $1 billion target.
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The program “will help mobilize new investments in locally led, voluntary conservation and restoration projects across the country, while making it easier for communities to access these resources,” Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement.
Many types of terrain stand to gain. Coasts, rivers, forests, grasslands and wetlands are all eligible for the award money. Groups working on expanding outdoor access, helping animals navigate landscapes, and increasing resiliency to climate impacts such as drought and coastal flooding can also apply for funding.
Private nonprofit the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will oversee America the Beautiful. Tribal and Indigenous-led projects have priority. Ecosystem restoration funds of $375 million came to the Interior Department through a bipartisan infrastructure law. The Forest Service is kicking in $35 million in grants for improving water quality and preventing invasive species. The Department of Defense’s $25 million will help preserve natural resources near military installations.
Not everybody wants to conserve land, though. Several climate-denying and anti-fed groups are hosting a Stop 30×30 Summit later this month in Nebraska. Some big-name Republicans will be there to rant against the initiative. If you go, don’t expect any decent vegan refreshments.
But many who understand the program are happy. “Protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters by the end of the decade can only be accomplished through partnerships and knowledge on the ground in all 50 states,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the conservation group Center for Western Priorities, as reported by HuffPost. “This billion-dollar commitment shows the administration is on the right track to reaching 30×30.”
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