County decries 30x30 plans as land grab

Jason Ferguson

In an executive order issued in January, President Joe Biden promised to protect 30 percent of U.S. land and 30 percent of U.S. oceans by 2030. The order, referred as the “30x30” program, isn’t sitting well with Custer County Commission chairman Jim Lintz.
At the commission’s April 28 meeting, Lintz said he believes it is merely a land grab, a case of the federal government trying to wrest private property from its citizens, as opposed to an impetus for climate protection.
To that end, the commission unanimously approved Resolution 2021-09 opposing the land preservation goal.
“This administration seems intent on becoming a communist country and this is a step toward it,” Lintz said of the 30x30 program.
County attorney Susan Anderson said the executive order encompasses a wide swath of topics, including biodiversity, greenhouse gases, farmers, ranchers, sequestering carbon and spurring well-paying union jobs.
Currently, 12 percent of the land in the country is under federal control. That means if the focus of the program is to protect another 18 percent of the land through ownership, a land mass twice the size of Texas would need to be acquired by the government.
Details of the program are few and far between, although last week U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack said no land will be taken from any farmer or rancher through this order.
On a call with agricultural journalists, Vilsack said, “There is no intent to take land away from farmers. The goal here is to create new opportunities.”
Vilsack said the administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture want to incentivize farmers and ranchers to use the tools he has at the USDA to compensate and pay farmers for being good stewards of their land, according to an AP article.
“(We want them to) embrace new opportunities and new ways,” he said. “None of it involves taking anyone’s land or using eminent domain.”
Conservation easements may be a part of those tools, and Lintz said he has fought conservation easements for years knowing it’s “automatically signing land over to the government.” When he was a member of the state’s Senate, he said he tried to pass a law where there was a specific year put on conservation easements and it was shot down in committee.
“Because these easements are in perpetuity, once you sign the easement, you no longer have control over your property,” he said. “That’s one of the ways they are going to try to gain control over the 30 percent is these easements. They have a lot of money they are going to fork out.”
Lintz said he also expects the government to pass laws that will tax people so heavily on inheriting property that it will make it nearly impossible to pass a ranch down through families.
Anderson said land bordering national parks will be a target of the program. Custer County already has 48 percent of its land under the control of either the state or federal government, and a large amount of property borders national parks.
In other news from the April 28 meeting, the commission:
• Approved the second reading of county ordinance No. 20 which will regulate open burning.
Areas within the Black Hills National Forest Fire Protection District—which most of Custer County sits in—are already required to have a burn permit. However, the area in the eastern foothills and east of Hwy. 79 in Custer County are not within that fire district. This new ordinance will regulate that, and it is hoped the town on the eastern part of the county will adopt similar regulations.
• Heard an update from county 4-H director Erin McGlumphy, who said 85 youth are enrolled in 4-H and there are 30 adult volunteers. Activities such as Youth and Leadership Camp and Achievement Days, which were cancelled last year, are back on.
• Learned from Custer County Airport manager Brenden Hendrickson that the airport will receive a snowplow from Rapid City Regional Airport. The county won a drawing against two other airports to receive the free plow from Rapid City Regional Airport.
• Learned Hap Schroth resigned as chief of the Buffalo Gap Fire Department. The county will send a letter to Schroth thanking him for his years in emergency services.
• Discussed COVID-19 protocols, including when to take down the plexiglass shields at the windows of county offices in the courthouse. It was decided for now department heads can decide whether to remove them.

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