The “30 by 30” Conservation Movement, with Jennifer Norris

A large oak tree in Cache Creek Natural Area, California

Image caption: The 30 by 30 movement is a global initiative aimed at conserving 30 percent of the Earth’s land by the year 2030. Image Credit: Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management / Openverse.

Script and Audio by: Alexandra Jade Garcia Blurb by: Amanda Neslund

What is the “30 by 30” Movement?

The 30 by 30 movement is a global initiative aimed at conserving 30 percent of the Earth’s land by the year 2030. In October 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed executive order N-82-20, which committed California to this movement. The state aims to protect 30 percent of its lands and coastal areas by 2030. With an investment of $11 billion, California is among the first jurisdictions to implement a comprehensive 30 by 30 strategy.  

As of 2020, California had already protected 24 percent of its lands and 16 percent of its coastal waters. To reach the 30 percent target, an additional six million acres of land will need to be conserved.

The 30 by 30 Initiative in California

One of the primary objectives of 30 by 30 in California is protecting biodiversity. The initiative focuses on preserving ecosystems, supporting biodiversity services, and mitigating climate change impacts.  Natural lands serve as significant carbon sinks, helping to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Locally driven conservation is also a critical part of the state’s conservation vision as it hopes to increase access to nature for everyone.

The initiative strives to promote more resilient ecosystems, including healthier forests and wetlands, which can help to combat climate change. Efforts also include river conservation, floodplain management, and protecting coastal wetlands from rising sea levels. The state is collaborating with federal agencies, tribes, and local communities to achieve these goals. Within state government, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is part of the California Natural Resources Agency, is working to identify areas with high concentrations of biodiversity and rare species.  

Another key pillar of the 30 by 30 initiative in California is advancing tribal partnerships. The state is working to co-manage land with tribal partners, return land to tribes when possible, and increase tribal access to culturally significant lands and waters. As part of this effort, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife consulted with seventy tribes on conservation matters. Information gleaned during those meetings helped the Department identify priority lands for conservation. In July 2023, the Natural Resources Agency received a $101 million dollar grant to support tribal conservation initiatives and funding for the reacquisition of the indigenous communities’ ancestral lands. Jennifer Norris, Deputy Secretary for Biodiversity and Habitat at the Natural Resources Agency, said that “tribes want the opportunity to get back to their lands, to manage the lands that are part of their history and their legacy.” The Natural Resource Department aims to provide tribes with the technical support to achieve these goals.

California’s 30 by 30 initiative also relies on citizen-driven conservation efforts. Citizens can help achieve the initiative’s goals by planting native plants in their gardens to increase biodiversity, reducing pesticide use, and supporting biodiversity-enhancing efforts.  

California’s Natural Resources Agency is spearheading California’s 30 by 30 initiative and conservation goals. The agency consists of twenty-six distinct departments, conservancies, and commissions; its work affects state parks, wilderness areas, working cattle ranches, and sustainably managed forests, among other areas.

30 by 30 Initiative Challenges

A primary challenge of the 30 by 30 initiative is the potential conflict between conservation efforts and other land uses. Striking a balance between conserving land and allowing for economic activities can be difficult, especially if conservation efforts lead to land use restrictions. A significant portion of California’s land is privately owned, and private landowners and ranching communities have voiced concern about the initiative. Convincing private landowners to participate in conservation efforts can be challenging due to concerns about property rights, economic impacts, and limitations on land use.

While the 30 by 30 initiative aims to mitigate the impacts of climate change, it also needs to consider the changing climate itself. Climate change can lead to shifts in ecosystems, which might impact the effectiveness of conservation efforts. Adaptive management strategies will be necessary to ensure that conserved lands remain resilient in the face of changing climate conditions.

Who is Jennifer Norris?

Dr. Jennifer Norris is the Deputy Secretary for Biodiversity and Habitat at the California Natural Resources Agency. Jennifer and her team developed the strategic vision for the 30 by 30 initiative in California.  She also leads the “Green Cutting Tape” project, which supports large-scale habitat creation. Jennifer has held numerous positions in federal and state government including most recently as supervisor of the Sacramento office of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. She has extensive experience in conservation policy, endangered species protection, and ecosystem management. She holds a B.S. in Resource Policy and Planning from Cornell University, an M.S. in Conservation Biology from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of New Mexico. When she is not at work, she can be found exploring wild beaches, forests, and deserts with her family.

Further Reading

California’s World-Leading Conservation Goals Adopted Globally, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom

30×30 California, California Nature 

Jennifer Norris, California Natural Resources Agency 

Pathways to 30×30 in California, California Natural Resources Agency

What is 30×30?, Conservation Corridor  

California 30×30 Executive Order N-82-20

Update on California’s 30X30 Initiative, Conservation Sense and Nonsense


Ethan: I’m Ethan Elkind and you’re listening to Climate Break: climate solutions in a hurry. Today’s proposal? 30 by 30: a global movement to conserve 30 percent of the planet’s land and seas by the year 2030. Jennifer Norris is Deputy Secretary of Biodiversity and Habitat at the California Natural Resources Agency. She joined me to talk about the state’s progress in meeting this goal.

Dr. Norris: Biodiversity and climate change actually go together really well. Natural lands naturally hold carbon in their soils, in plants, wetlands sequester carbon, giant whales in the ocean actually pull carbon out of the air. Currently we’re at 24 percent protected, 23.7 percent, so we need about 6 million acres on land. And then on the, in our coastal waters, we have about 16 percent, so we need another half a million acres of coastal waters.

Ethan: In addition to the environmental needs, Norris says that California sees 30 by 30 as a way to address past injustices.

Dr. Norris: We want to do things in a different way in that we’re trying to really center equity and advance opportunities for access to nature. So, looking for opportunities to co-manage with tribal partners. You know, look for opportunities to give land back when possible.

Ethan: Beyond government action, Norris believes individuals can play a strong role achieving 30 by 30.

Dr. Norris: Whether you’re actively leading to conserve lands, you know, in your area, you can also support biodiversity just by planting native plants in your yard, by reducing your use of pesticides. So, we hope that people across the state start to identity with 30 by 30 and want to be part of it and help us get the work done.

Ethan: To learn more about 30 by 30, visit

The “30 by 30” Conservation Movement, with Jennifer Norris