Sierra Club 30x30


By Aneri Shah

Scientists have proposed the idea of conserving 50 percent of the Earth's natural landscapes as a crucial step to combat the alarming loss of biodiversity. This concept has gained significant attention and support globally, with United Nations resolutions highlighting the urgency of preserving our planet's ecological balance. California has emerged as a leader in this conservation effort by setting an ambitious target to conserve 30 percent of its land and waters by the year 2030. In October of 2020, Governor Newson issued an executive order to conserve 30 percent of the state’s land and water by 2030. 

The 30x30 plan consists of four main pillars: conserve biodiversity, meet the impact of climate change, serve underserved communities with equal access to nature, and elevate traditional Tribal conservation management practices and land back efforts. These pillars provide a comprehensive framework for addressing critical environmental challenges and fostering sustainable development. 

Mary Buxton, a volunteer for the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, is actively engaged in the 30x30 project, and has dedicated three years of service so far. She attends monthly meetings with all 13 Sierra Club chapters in California in order to discuss and advance 30x30 objectives. Additionally, as a member of the political subcommittee, Mary contributes to the development of tools aimed at assisting chapters in their outreach efforts to city, County and state electeds and agencies.  Her focus extends to the Chapter’s Bay Alive Campaign, the 30x30 flagship local conservation priority. Bay Alive works towards region-wide and environmentally just sea level rise solutions that assure the continued viability of the San Francisco Bay’s shoreline ecosystems and equitable access to planning and implementation resources for marginalized shoreline communities.

Notably, approximately 72 percent of California's remaining wetlands are situated around the San Francisco Bay, constituting only four percent of their historical extent. The members of the Bay Alive campaign are actively involved in planning strategies that employ natural and nature-based solutions to sustain and expand these wetlands in the face of future sea level rise. These efforts offer the preservation of habitats for diverse plant and animal species, and continuation of ecosystem services that are critical to community well-being, from pollution filtration and carbon sequestration, to flood mitigation and expanded recreation opportunities.. This critical work involves collaboration with Sierra Club California and the three Sierra Club chapters (Loma Prieta, San Francisco Bay and Redwood chapters) dedicated to addressing the challenges posed by the diminishing wetlands in the region.

Two approaches are being explored to address the challenges at hand. The practical approach would involve specific tangible projects that would provide an on-the-ground solution to a local problem while improving the ecological considerations.

On the policy side, the approach would be to work with agencies that would be empowered to govern and guide city and county responses to sea level rise and be able to implement these practices. By advocating for and working hand-in-hand with these governing bodies, the goal is to establish and enforce policies that promote resilience and sustainability in the face of environmental changes. 

Additionally, there is a chapter 30x30 San Mateo Coast working group.  This dedicated group is actively working on conservation efforts along the San Mateo coast, focusing on expanding the marine protected area. Two other 30x30 local conservation projects involve staying aware of any opportunity to purchase the Cargill Redwood City salt ponds for the purpose of restoration and including the area in the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, and attending monthly meetings that follow issues concerning Coyote Valley.

Simultaneously, 30x30 looks for opportunities to support the member organizations of  the Pajaro Compass: A Network for Voluntary Conservation, in San Benito county.  The member organizations play a crucial advocacy role, leveraging their expertise and local relationships to make progress. The Loma Prieta Chapter's 30x30 Task Force shares information on grant funding streams that might contribute to their conservation cause. 

In summary, 30x30 conservation is composed of distinct local efforts in Santa Clara, San Benito, and San Mateo Counties. All of this local conservation work is tailored to address the unique environmental challenges and opportunities in their respective regions, reflecting a united front in the collective approach of environmental preservation.