Buttigieg Releases Plan to Protect US Public Lands

(CN) — On the eve of the Nevada caucuses, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg released a new pillar of his environmental policy that aims to preserve and protect public lands in an overall effort to battle the effects of climate change.

The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s plan lays out goals of protecting and restoring public lands and achieving net-zero emissions from these lands by 2030. The policy proposal also says Buttigieg would ban new fossil fuel leases on federal lands and waters.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg takes questions from students at the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future town hall in Los Angeles on Thursday. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Other areas of the proposal include a focus on securing sustainable water sources for western states, including a $90 billion investment to ensure Americans have access to clean water. The plan also claims that if Buttigieg wins the presidency, he would launch a massive effort to prepare for natural disasters within his first 100 days in office.

“America’s public lands power local economies, preserve sensitive habitats and cultural heritage, and protect our clean air and water. From Nevada’s Red Rock Recreation Area to Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to Cherokee National Forest, they define us as a nation and as a people; yet we are losing the battle to protect these natural and cultural wonders at an alarming rate,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “As president, my administration will protect our public lands for posterity while ensuring that they are a key part of the solution to tackling the climate crisis.”

The former mayor currently stands as the slight delegate leader in the Democratic field for the party’s presidential nomination, but with only the states of Iowa and New Hampshire having voted so far in the primary, that lead is early and tenuous. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is considered by many to be the current frontrunner.

One area where Buttigieg is seen as weak is among black and Latino voters, and despite being a climate change policy proposal, the plan attempts to address this as well.  The proposal claims it would “prepare all Americans for accelerating climate change — especially those from low-income, black, Latino, and Native communities that face disproportionate negative impacts from environmental crises.”

These protections would include establishing a program known as the U.S. Climate Corps that, with aid from the private sector, would seek to update homes in communities vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The policy goes on to say Buttigieg’s investment in communities would “save money and lives when catastrophe strikes.”

The plan mentions many other groups such as ranchers and farmers, and includes a particular focus on tribal communities. Buttigieg says he would give tribal communities the right to review and deny proposed governmental actions that impact their land. In addition, the plan proposes that a Buttigieg administration would work directly with tribes for what the plan calls “large-scale and community based clean energy projects.”

With the Nevada caucuses being held on Saturday, the plan’s inclusion of tribal communities may help with those voters. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Native Americans make up almost 2% of the state’s population.

Buttigieg is seen as a long shot to win the Nevada caucuses, as most polls put Sanders in the lead.

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