RELEASE: CAP Proposes ‘Race for Nature’ Plan To Save Family Farms and Conserve Natural Places

Washington, D.C. — To save family farms, ranches, and rural communities from economic collapse, a new report from the Center for American Progress urges the United States to launch a major effort—a “Race for Nature”—that would pay private landowners to protect the water, air, and natural places that everyone needs to stay healthy.

Many family farmers and ranchers were already in dire economic straits before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, with food processing facilities disrupted by COVID-19 outbreaks, restaurants struggling to get by, and global trade further slowing, the nation’s agricultural producers are facing a bleak economic future.

“Family farmers and ranchers need lifelines,” said Ryan Richards, a senior policy analyst for Public Lands at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the report. “Bold and swift investment in nature conservation can provide one.”

The report urges the federal government to immediately expand and accelerate the nation’s private land conservation easement programs. This would pay farmers, ranchers, and private landowners for permanently protecting their land, giving them the option to transform a portion of a traditionally illiquid asset—the development rights to their land—into much-needed cash revenue that could help them weather this economic storm.

This 10-year national effort, which CAP calls the “Race for Nature,” would lead to a tenfold increase in the pace of private land conservation in the country and, ultimately, the permanent or long-term protection of at least 55 million acres of natural places and the sequestration of at least 70 million metric tons of carbon by 2030.

It would also move the country toward a national “30×30” objective of protecting at least 30 percent of all lands and oceans by 2030—a goal that scientists say is necessary to achieve in order to protect clean drinking water supplies, clean air, and abundant food supplies.

The plan has the endorsement of the Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization that is working to strengthen land conservation across the United States. “The Land Trust Alliance commends the Center for American Progress for drawing attention to the critical role that private land conservation plays in securing the physical and economic health of Americans and the need to accelerate the rate of private land conservation over the next decade,” said Andrew Bowman, president and CEO of the Land Trust Alliance. “The Land Trust Alliance stands ready to work with its 1,000 land trust members to secure federal support and funding to enable private landowners to conserve the places we all need and love.”

CAP’s conservation team also released an analysis today showing how broad investments in the protection and restoration of nature, including through the Race for Nature, can create jobs and help the United States recover faster and healthier from the coronavirus pandemic. An investment of at least $39 billion in the protection of new parks, restoration of coasts and public lands, reforestation, clean-up of orphan wells and abandoned mines, removal of aging and unneeded dams, and acceleration of private land conservation would create between 446,900 and 717,000 jobs over the next two years.

Read the report: “The Race for Nature: How Congress Can Help Farmers and Ranchers Save Their Lands and Survive the Coronavirus-Induced Economic Crisis” by Ryan Richards and Matt Lee-Ashley.

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For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at  or 202-478-6327.