House Republicans demand ’30 by 30′ spending docs

By Scott Streater | 05/08/2024 04:08 PM EDT

The letter to the Council on Environmental Quality asks for detailed information on a grants program.

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).

House Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) at a committee meeting. Francis Chung/POLITICO

House Republicans are pressing the White House for spending and budget information associated with President Joe Biden’s sweeping “America the Beautiful” initiative.

Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, want detailed information on a grants program associated with the initiative, which aims to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory, the lawmakers target the “America the Beautiful Challenge,” which is managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The program consolidates funding for “large-scale” conservation and restoration projects “from multiple federal agencies and the private sector,” according to the foundation’s website.


The letter requests CEQ provide the Natural Resources Committee with sources of funding for the grants program, including the amount contributed by other federal agencies. It asks for documentation outlining the “operating principles of the Challenge,” as well as the “legal justifications agencies may transfer funds to NFWF to establish the Challenge.”

The letter also requests CEQ provide documentation describing “how the administration plans to provide public transparency for the operations of the Challenge.”

A spokesperson for CEQ declined to comment.

The request from Westerman and Gosar comes a week ahead of a scheduled Natural Resources Committee hearing on CEQ’s budget request for fiscal 2025.

The letter is also a follow-up to a similar information request sent to Mallory on March 22, in which CEQ “failed to comply and provide a substantive reply or production responsive to the Committee’s requests,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Your silence and lack of a response to the Committee Letter suggests that CEQ is deliberately engaging in obstruction to frustrate the oversight power of Congress,” the letter says. “This is unacceptable. The American public deserves transparency, and the Committee will use every tool at its disposal to administer effective oversight and fulfill the Committee’s responsibility to the American people.”

Congressional Republicans have largely opposed Biden’s conservation initiative since it was unveiled in 2021.

The effort to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030 — commonly referred to as “30 by 30” — is aimed at preserving biodiversity and addressing climate change.

CEQ last month unveiled a new website with a database designed to allow the public to track progress on a suite of conservation programs.

But it does not include the amount of acreage protected by the America the Beautiful effort.

An analysis conducted last year by the liberal Center for American Progress concluded that Biden during his first two years in office has invested more than $10 billion in new conservation lands — the most of any modern-era White House during the same period.