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Lankford Focuses on State-led Approach to Caring for Public Lands that Protects Private Property

WASHINGTON, DC  – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) joined Congressional Western Caucus and Senate Western Caucus Members to unveil an alternative to the Biden Administration’s “30 by 30 initiative” and America the Beautiful report, known as the Western Conservation Principles. The Members’ approach is a blueprint for responsible, effective conservation supported by rural communities across the United States.

“We do not need new vague and lofty conservation campaign promises; we need state-led policies that protect private property and are smarter, more efficient, and effective,” said Lankford. “We already have 640 million acres of federal land—most of it in the western states—with an extensive, existing maintenance backlog that is being ignored. Biden wants to irresponsibly heap more maintenance obligations and more regulations on the problem. We should take care of our existing beautiful public spaces and ensure we respect private property owners and those who live and work around our public lands.”

“In the West, we know firsthand that locking up lands with preservationist designations does not automatically guarantee healthy landscapes,” said Senate Western Caucus Chairman Steve Daines (R-MT) and House Chairman Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) in a joint statement. “In fact, the opposite is often the case. The Western Conservation Principles demonstrate that conservation and working lands go hand-in-hand. If the Administration is serious about restoring America the Beautiful, they will embrace Western Conservation Principles and promote these time-tested, science-based practices we know equate to real conservation outcomes for our lands and waters.”

Senate Western Caucus Members joining Lankford and Daines to introduce this conservative approach to public land conservation include Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mitt Romney (R-UT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

Western Conservation Principles have garnered endorsements from the following groups: the American Exploration and Mining Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Forest Research Council, American Sheep Industry, Family Farm Alliance, National Association of Counties, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, National Mining Association, National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association, Public Lands Council, and Western Energy Alliance.

In 2020, Lankford voted against the Great American Outdoors Act, which added more land and did not address the maintenance backlog on public lands. Lankford spoke on the Senate floor to outline why he opposed the bill. Lankford highlighted the mismanagement of the current maintenance backlog on our federal lands in the first volume of Federal Fumbles: ways the government dropped the ball (page 108). Lankford noted in the report that Congress must allow the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to be used to take care of the deferred maintenance backlog. In volume 5 of Federal Fumbles, Lankford again highlighted the shortcomings of our land management policies and raised the dire budgetary implications of potential action to make LWCF spending mandatory (page 3).