It’s an incredibly exciting time to work in land conservation.

That might sound dramatic, but the 30 by 30 (30×30) initiative feels like the dawning of a new era in American environmentalism. This, for so many of us diehard nature nerds, is the moment we’ve all been waiting for — a chance to protect 30% of all land and water in the U.S. by 2030. It’s big and bold… and the clock is ticking.

That said, some context might be helpful. Watch the video below and hear from Dr. Peter Cowan, our director of conservation science, to get a sense for why this is what everyone in the conservation community is talking about. Then download our 30×30 Initiative Special Report, written by long-time environmental journalist Peter Fimrite, who investigated this initiative and what it might mean for local conservation in the Bay Area.

What is the 30×30 Initiative?

In the last year, both the federal government and the state of California committed to protecting 30% of all land and water by 2030 — goals that are now commonly referred to as the 30×30 initiatives. These initiatives aim to protect the places that science has confirmed are critical to:

  • slowing the rapid warming of the planet and mitigating the worst effects of climate change
  • preserving biodiversity and addressing the global extinction crisis
  • ensuring communities have access to clean air, water and safe outdoor spaces

This work will require all corners of the land conservation and management world to come together. It’s clearly a massive undertaking and one that’s fitting for the uniquely perilous moment we find ourselves in.

The sun shining through a redwood fairy ring.
A childish fantasy of mine is the invention of Elon Musk-inspired machines that magically suck carbon from the atmosphere. Well, as it turns out, nature’s already got some: trees and plants.

Why Is Protecting Land So Important?

Natural landscapes offer one of our greatest tools for capturing and storing carbon (and other greenhouse gases) from the atmosphere. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants and trees capture these gases from the air and convert them into food, ultimately storing them for long periods of time in their living materials and in the ground. That’s a gross oversimplification, but you get the picture. Long-lived species like redwoods, for example, are among the best in the world at capturing and storing these planet-warming gases.

Of course, safeguarding land is about more than protecting key species like redwoods, it’s also about protecting our biodiversity — the beautiful cornucopia of life under the sun. Nature thrives on this complexity, on the overlapping relationships between species and the interconnectedness of earth’s natural systems. Protecting our diverse landscapes, the habitat for this diversity of life, is the best defense in preserving the natural resilience of our region.

It’s also essential that all of our future land conservation efforts focus on increasing access to nature for all people, with an emphasis on disadvantaged communities and communities of color. For too long, the costs of environmental destruction have fallen on these marginalized communities — from poorer air and water quality to higher risk of natural disasters like flooding. In this country, 74 percent of communities of color and 70 percent of low-income communities in the contiguous United States live in nature-deprived areas. The 30×30 initiative is our chance to address this problem head on — what could be a hopeful turning point in this painful history.

So, like I said, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be in land conservation.

And the momentum’s building.

30×30 Initiative Special Report

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About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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