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Kerr County weighs in on public lands battle with feds

A plan by President Joe Biden to expand public lands is a non-starter in Texas Hill Country

Like their statewide legislative counterparts, the Kerr County Commissioners Court worries about the small things — rather than the big ones.

On June 28, the court unanimously approved a resolution stating opposition to a plan by President Joe Biden to increase the size of public lands. The effort, known as the 30-by-30 plan, includes plans to roll back decisions made by former President Donald Trump's administration to reduce federal lands and monuments.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Harris led the discussion about the resolution, authored in part by conservative activist Terri Hall; Kerr County is concerned about the federal government's encroachment on private property.

How the federal government will pull off setting aside more than 600 million acres under the plan is to be determined, but the court made an effort to get in front of it. Biden's strategy is to have 30% of lands and coastal areas preserved by 2030.

Part of the resistance to Biden's effort is from Texas-based American Stewards of Liberty, which works to delist endangered species and protect property rights. The group successfully got Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts to issue an executive order rejecting the 30-by-30 plan.

Language in the county's resolution is similar to that written by American Stewards of Liberty. Some of that focus is on protecting the exotic game, ranching and agricultural operations. Kerr County's primary production is cattle, according to the U.S. Department of Agricultural.

However, Kerr County has a burgeoning tourism industry with natural features, including the Guadalupe River, attracting visitors from across the state.

The county's resolution says Biden has no constitutional authority to enact the changes. Past presidents have used the Antiquities Act of 1906 and private financing to preserve lands and create national parks. In Texas, federal lands account for less than 2% of the state's acreage. Some of that land includes major military bases.

Conservations groups, including The Nature Conservancy, have worked behind the scenes to acquire lands to be placed into land easements. The legal procedure ensures the land is conserved in perpetuity.

In Texas, The Nature Conservancy has purchased thousands of acres, including more than 50,000 to bolster Big Bend National Park, intending to protect them.

However, conservative groups have been gathering support to fight the plan, including pushing back against the legal tools used by conservation groups.

In Kerr County, there are limited examples of private land under conservation easements. Whether or not the county can prohibit them seems unlikely. The county argues that private landowners are suited to manage their land better than the government.

The resolution is not the first time the court has dipped its toe into national issues. They have previously passed resolutions opposing federal actions and limitations.


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