President’s Executive Order on Climate Change is Good News for the Gold Country

President Biden issued an Executive Order on January 27, 2021, on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.”  This sweeping new order directs that, going forward, “climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.”

Abandoned Mine Land with sign warning about mine tailing hazards

The Sierra Fund applauds this bold move. “Among other directives, the Executive Order specifically calls out the need to reclaim abandoned mine lands and restore healthy forests,” notes Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund. “The Executive Order reflects and underscores The Sierra Fund’s nearly two decades of work to bring new resources to our Sierra Nevada to address the lasting ecological and cultural damage caused by the Gold Rush. It recognizes the crucial importance of environmental justice at a time when local First Nation tribal people and organizations are emerging in this region as leaders and partners in addressing these very issues.”

The order establishes an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization that includes 10 Cabinet members. They are directed to bring forward plans to implement the very ambitious goals laid out in the order.

The Executive Order notes, in the section entitled Empowering Workers Through Rebuilding Our Infrastructure For A Sustainable Economy, that “…reclaiming abandoned mine land can create well-paying union jobs in coal, oil, and gas communities while restoring natural assets, revitalizing recreation economies, and curbing methane emissions.”  

In the section Empowering Workers By Advancing Conservation, Agriculture, And Reforestation it notes that the “Federal Government must protect America’s natural treasures, increase reforestation, improve access to recreation, and increase resilience to wildfires and storms, while creating well-paying union jobs for more Americans, including more opportunities for women and people of color in occupations where they are underrepresented.  America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by sequestering carbon in soils, grasses, trees, and other vegetation and sourcing sustainable bioproducts and fuels.”

Under Conserving Our Nation’s Lands and Waters the Order directs the federal government to work with “State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders, to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”

The order directs that the US Department of Justice, led by the Attorney General “develop a comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy, which shall seek to provide timely remedies for systemic environmental violations and contaminations, and injury to natural resources.” It calls for the Council on Environmental Quality to “create a geospatial Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and shall annually publish interactive maps highlighting disadvantaged communities.”

The Interagency Working group is soliciting input about the plan from all stakeholders including State, local, and Tribal officials; unions; environmental justice organizations; community groups; and other persons it identifies who may have perspectives on the mission of the Interagency Working Group.

Read the full Executive Order here: