Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful Areas of Focus

The Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful Report identifies six recommended areas of early focus for the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to conserve and restore America the Beautiful.

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These six areas of focus are intended to forge common purpose, support voluntary approaches to conservation, and reflect early inputs and ideas that elected officials, Tribal leaders, and stakeholders have lifted up as opportunities for successful collaboration. These recommendations are preliminary and not exhaustive. Additionally, this section primarily focuses on work that Federal agencies can do to encourage and advance locally supported conservation efforts across the nation. A successful effort will require a blend of innovative and lasting conservation work across Federal, State, local, private and Tribal lands and waters.


Create More Parks and Safe Outdoor Opportunities in Nature-Deprived Communities

The Biden-Harris administration has made a historic commitment to ensure that 40 percent of the overall benefits from relevant Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities. In that spirit, the America the Beautiful campaign should support locally led conservation and park projects in communities that disproportionately lack access to nature and its benefits. The Great American Outdoors Act, which Congress passed in 2020 on a bipartisan basis, could be among the tools used to address environmental injustice. The law provides dedicated annual funding for parks and open space projects across the country, including through Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) programs, such as the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP). The National Park Service, in particular, should strengthen and expand the ORLP program, which focuses on creating new parks and access to nature in historically underserved communities.

Support Tribally Led Conservation and Restoration Priorities

Tribal governments have often struggled to access Federal funding and assistance to support their conservation efforts, either because they are not written into legislation that authorizes key Federal programs, or because they may not have capacity to navigate the bureaucracy to participate in the programs for which they are eligible. Federal agencies should review their most successful conservation programs, such as the LWCF and the National Marine Sanctuaries nominations process, to determine how to better include and support Tribal governments. This may include working with Congress to revise underlying statutes, or developing technical assistance and capacity building grants to support Indigenous-led conservation efforts. Additionally, Federal agencies should take steps to improve engagement with American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians on the care and management of public lands and waters, particularly regarding sacred and ceremonial sites, and trust and treaty rights. The Biden-Harris administration has committed to engaging in regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations; this must include land management planning and relevant decision-making for public lands and waters. Finally, the Federal Government should prioritize restoring Tribal homelands by improving the land into trust process. Tribes have time and time again proven to be the most effective stewards of natural resources.

Expand Collaborative Conservation of Fish and Wildlife Habitats and Corridors

Federal agencies should take several broadly supported steps to stem the decline of fish and wildlife populations and their habitats throughout the country. First, agencies can work with States, Tribes, local communities, and private landowners to establish and expand upon promising initiatives to conserve and restore wildlife migration corridors through incentives and local collaboration. The Trump administration launched a promising effort to enhance the winter range and migration corridor habitat of elk, deer, and pronghorn on DOI-managed lands. This initiative could be expanded to include other land managers, to build partnerships with working ranches and other landowners, and to conserve corridors and seasonal ranges for other species. Second, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) should expand conservation efforts already identified through partnerships with external stakeholders, including fish passage projects in the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, conservation of at-risk species identified in State Wildlife Action Plans, and bird habitat conservation through the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures. FWS should also work with States, local communities, and others to explore where there is support to enhance the National Wildlife Refuge System, which provides important anchors for wildlife conservation throughout the nation. The Biden-Harris administration welcomes Congressional efforts to support on-the-ground habitat restoration for at-risk species through collaboration with State fish and wildlife agencies. Third, NOAA should expand the National Marine Sanctuaries System and National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Through broad public engagement, NOAA can establish national marine sanctuaries that protect natural and cultural marine and Great Lakes resources and promote sustainable uses. The process to establish new national marine sanctuaries and accompanying management plans has already begun for sites in Wisconsin and New York, and several other sites have been nominated for potential future designation. Similarly, under authorities provided by the Coastal Zone Management Act, NOAA is exploring new designations for national estuarine research reserves in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Louisiana. 

If approved, they would join a network of coastal sites managed in partnership with coastal states and local partners for the protection and research of estuarine systems. In addition, NOAA’s Restoration Center should expand its work to conserve and restore habitats—like wetlands, rivers, and coral reefs—to boost fish populations, recover threatened and endangered species, and support resilient coastal communities. Finally, the United States boasts one of the most dynamic and innovative wild-capture fishery management systems in the world under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. The management measures that are available to fisheries management authorities, such as gear-based restrictions and habitat based measures, could be applied to achieve improved conservation outcomes that benefit the health of fisheries as well as other marine species and habitats. NOAA should work closely with regional fishery management councils to identify areas or networks of areas where their fisheries management efforts would support long-term conservation goals.

Increase Access for Outdoor Recreation

Additional conservation can and should improve access for hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, and other forms of outdoor recreation. Improved access to public lands and waters—in an equitable, well-managed and sustainable manner— can broaden and deepen connections to nature and its benefits, and encourage the next generation of outdoor stewards. Hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts have not only played a positive role in stewarding our nation’s lands, waters, and wildlife, but they also generate significant economic benefits to local communities. Federal land and coastal management agencies should expand support for voluntary programs that unlock access to the millions of acres of public lands that are currently inaccessible to the public.36 The administration should also prioritize management planning that identifies lands and waters that are appropriate to be conserved and managed for outdoor recreation. In the ocean, ongoing mapping efforts will be important to managing for sustainable uses and should be continued. Finally, the Biden-Harris administration welcomes efforts in Congress to support outdoor recreation, including appropriate designations to improve conservation and appreciation of lands and waters. 

Incentivize and Reward the Voluntary Conservation Efforts of Fishers, Ranchers, Farmers, and Forest Owners

Federal agencies can and should advance conservation by supporting programs that incentivize voluntary conservation efforts and provide new sources of income for American farmers, ranchers, and forest stewards. Healthy rural economies are a key component of keeping working lands healthy, productive, and whole. The USDA has an array of programs that offer effective strategies for advancing conservation on working lands, such as the Working Lands for Wildlife initiative and the Conservation Reserve Program. The reauthorization of the Farm Bill in 2023 provides a tremendous opportunity for the USDA and Congress to improve the effectiveness of relevant programs to conserve working lands. Similarly, the FWS should enhance support for voluntary conservation efforts by private landowners through initiatives such as Conservation Without Conflict, tools such as species credit trading (conservation banking) and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances, and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. NOAA should continue its Species in the Spotlight initiative to provide immediate, targeted efforts to halt declines and stabilize populations of the species most at-risk of extinction in the near future, which could increase public awareness, marshal resources, and focus conservation actions, including through voluntary measures and public-private partnerships. 

Create Jobs by Investing in Restoration and Resilience

The Biden-Harris administration, through the American Jobs Plan, has proposed bold investments to restore our nation’s lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and freshwater, coastal and ocean resources. The proposal includes putting a new, diverse generation of Americans to work through a Civilian Climate Corps that can help conserve and restore public lands and waters. The investments in restoration, reforestation, reclamation, and other activities that improve the function and form of our natural systems—from the Everglades and the Great Lakes to the Chesapeake Bay—will not only bolster our nation’s resilience to extreme wildfires, sea level rise, droughts, storms, and other climate impacts, but they will also create a new pathway.

Stay up to date with all the latest America the Beautiful news! Click here to view the America the Beautiful feed and sign up to receive updates when new content is added to the site. You’ll need to enable an RSS reader to subscribe and view updates. Learn more about RSS and RSS readers and get links to other feeds on this site and across NOAA.