Nebraska the Beautiful: Conserving our Land Without the Heavy Hand of Federal Government

Betty Q. Hixson

Nebraska the Beautiful: Conserving our Land Without the Heavy Hand of Federal Government

By Governor Pete Ricketts

April 19, 2022


Governor’s official photo here.


In Nebraska, we know the importance of good stewardship.  Our farmers and ranchers responsibly cultivate the land so future generations of Nebraskans can continue enjoying the Good Life for years to come.  It’s why, nearly one hundred years before Earth Day even began, J. Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day right here in Nebraska City.  Our farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists.


Ag producers play a major role in our responsible stewardship of land and water.  They use innovative planting and grazing techniques to reduce erosion and improve soil health.  And inventions like the center pivot, the development of drought-resistant hybrid crops, and the use of precision irrigation have optimized our use of water resources.  They’ve enabled Nebraska to maintain our portion of the Ogallala Aquifer within one foot of where it was in the 1950s – a sharp contrast to other states that have drained down the aquifer.  In Colorado, it’s down 15 feet.


Our innovative stewardship practices don’t cost us in terms of production, either.  While managing land and water resources, Nebraska has increased its strong role in nationwide beef production.  Since the 1960s, our ranchers have contributed to a 66% increase in national beef production, while helping the U.S. beef industry reduce its carbon footprint by 40%.  America now produces 18% of the world’s beef with just 6% of the world’s cattle.


Nebraska does all of this while being 97% privately owned.  We conserve without the heavy hand of government.  And our voluntary conservation of private property has had obvious success.  U.S. News ranks Nebraska as the sixth-best state in the nation for the quality of our natural environment.  In contrast, President Biden’s home state of Delaware ranks the sixth worst, and it has the fourth-worst pollution in the country. 


Nebraskans don’t need the Biden-Harris Administration lecturing us on the environment.  Our farmers, ranchers, businesses, and homeowners have proven their ability to responsibly use the natural resources we’ve been blessed with here in Nebraska.


Nevertheless, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to push a radical environmental agenda.  The President is funneling funds to the EPA to extend federal control over land and water.  His first month in office, President Biden issued an executive order calling for 30% of the nation’s lands and waters to be conserved by 2030.  The 30 x 30 policy calls for 440 million acres to be put in conservation by 2030.  That’s nine times the size of Nebraska. 


Lands considered “conserved” under 30 x 30 include wetlands, wildlife reserves, state and national parks, and national monuments.  The Biden Administration has expanded borders of existing conserved lands to reach their goal.  This includes growing the Bears Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 45%.  Together, these monuments now give more than three million acres of land to federal control.  But the Biden Administration is still hundreds of millions of acres short of 30%.  There is no way for the Biden Administration to reach its goal by 2030 through these expansions alone.  And they know it.


That’s why federal agencies—and their environmentalist allies—are trying to convince landowners to voluntarily give up their property rights through conservation easements.  These agreements pay landowners in exchange for putting their land into conservation.  President Biden’s proposed budget includes over $300 million for conservation easements.


Here’s how conservation easements work:  federal government agencies, or radical environmental groups, make enticing offers to farmers and ranchers to sign a contract to put land into conservation.  Once signed, there’s no going back.  Unless the contract specifies a term limit, the easement is perpetual.  Future generations of Nebraskans have no way to go back and revisit whether the land should remain in the easement.  It is permanent.


I signed an executive order last year to better equip Nebraskans to resist 30 x 30.  Among other actions, it prohibits using State agency discretionary resources to support projects involving perpetual conservation easements.  


I also led a group of 15 governors to send a letter to President Biden, calling for transparency on the veiled 30 x 30 program.  Since issuing his climate executive order over a year ago, the President has given no indication as to how he plans to achieve his goals.  And our letter calling for answers remains unanswered.


In the face of soaring inflation, President Biden has proposed massive spending increases to support the goals of environmental extremists.  His federal budget recommendation would balloon the size of the EPA, boosting its budget by 29% or about $2.6 billion.  This shows just how out of touch the Biden-Harris Administration is with normal Americans.  At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, the President wants to use their hard-earned tax dollars to finance the projects of radical environmentalists and erode our private property rights.


President Biden should leave conservation to the pros – our farmers and ranchers.  Instead, he should focus on reining in rampant federal spending that’s led to record inflation and support policies that provide relief to American families. 


As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day and the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day, remember the decades upon decades of conservation Nebraskans have practiced on our land.  We can continue to feed the world and steward our land for future generations without the heavy hand of government.


I’ll be celebrating this Earth Day by hosting the nation’s first 30 x 30 summit in Lincoln.  Here, national, state, and local leaders will come together to discuss voluntary conservation practices and how we can fight the Biden Administration’s overreach to protect our private property rights for future generations.  You can learn more about the summit at


If you have questions about Nebraska’s strong conservation practices or the President’s 30 x 30 plan, please email [email protected] or call 402-471-2244.

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