What is 30×30?

30×30 is a global initiative built from the work of environmental justice advocates, scientists, and conservationists that calls for governments to designate 30% of the earth’s lands, waters and oceans as protected areas by 2030. With research on large-scale conservation targets going back in academic literature to the 1970s (studies that replicate the conservation knowledge Indigenous cultures have always held), the 30×30 target was prominently named in a 2019 article in Science and has since been adopted by several U.S. states, including Hawaiʻi¹, California, New Mexico, and South Carolina, as well as the U.S. federal government and dozens of other countries around the world.

From the global to the local, 30×30 initiatives are designed to reimagine how we conserve and steward our lands and waters so that we can holistically address the layered climate crisis. Essentially, these are the guiding principles established at the national level to achieve 30×30 in the United States:

  • Conserve, connect, and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife upon which all people depend
  • Pursue inclusive, locally led, and voluntary, collaboratively designed approaches to conservation and stewardship 
  • Honor and advance the priorities of Tribal Nations and Indigenous Communities
  • Focus on intersectional approaches that include private landowners, flexible and adaptive strategies, and approaches that enable multi-benefit results, including economic opportunity and community health
  • Use the best available science

This ambitious, collaborative effort to preserve, restore, and connect communities to nature will require broad and deep inclusion in order to design meaningful, effective approaches that go beyond the spatial targets of conserving 30% of our lands and waters. The expertise and leadership of Tribes and Indigenous Communities, conservation stakeholders, equitable access and outdoor recreation partners, working lands experts, scientists, community based organizations, environmental educators, government entities at all scales, and environmental justice advocates, among many others, are needed to identify and implement the strategies that will address the priorities of all communities. Moreover, this massive undertaking really requires the leadership of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, so that the solutions do not create unintended consequences that promote further harm to those communities who have faced historic disinvestment, violence, and environmental degradation. BIPOC leadership in 30×30 will also ensure that the connection, lived experiences, and joyful perspectives of communities of color create a 30×30 pathway that inspires the land and water stewards of tomorrow.

Why Is 30×30 Critically Necessary Now?

Our communities live in a challenging reality, within which historic injustices, ongoing disinvestment, and systemic racism compound the impacts of climate change, which continually intensifies and disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable among us. On top of which, it’s never been more clear than during the COVID-19 pandemic that access to nature—without barriers—is a critical part of maintaining our mental health and physical wellbeing

If advanced with equity, inclusion, and justice as our drivers, the federal 30×30 initiative can help us protect and restore more of nature and include more people in that stewardship goal. Special places like our oceans, marine sanctuaries and beaches, wetlands, forests, urban parks, recreation areas and national parks, Indigenous-managed lands, biodiversity-focused farms and ranchlands, and estuaries, lakes, and rivers provide the life support systems of our communities. And these places hold the stories and sacred sites of our ancestors and living communities.

The pathway to 30×30 is about so much more than a percentage. The stewardship of our lands and waters by Indigenous, Black, and other communities of color—and our leadership in designing the 30×30 approach from the local to the global—will ensure meaningful, effective results. Together, we can begin to stabilize our rapidly changing climate and support communities, lands, and waters that are safe, resilient, joyful spaces for generations to come.

¹ While most governments’ 30×30 targets include some combination of land, water, and marine conservation, Hawaii’s 30×30 target, formalized in 2016, specifically sets out to “effectively manage Hawaiʻi’s nearshore waters with 30% established as marine management areas by 2030.”

This blog is part of a series by Justice Outside exploring Indigenous and racial justice inside 30×30. 30×30 is a U.S. and global initiative to protect 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. Justice Outside’s commitment within 30×30 is to ensure that the leadership and voices of Black, Indigenous, and communities of color are at the center of our shared efforts to protect and conserve lands and waters.

View the series:
1] What is 30×30?(this blog)
2] Why Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color Should Be At the Center of 30×30 Conservation Efforts
3] The Role of Indigenous, Racial Justice, and Environmental Justice Groups in the U.S. Federal 30×30 Work Plan and Other Environmental Justice Groups in 30×30
4] What Are the Roles of Justice Outside and Other Environmental Justice Groups in 30×30?
5] What’s Next for 30×30 in the U.S.?