At the last in-person annual conference of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Dr. Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence gave an inspirational presentation about the critical importance of protecting at least 30% of nature—lands, waters, and ocean—by 2030 (“30x30”). Essentially, he overviewed how we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and by supporting 30x30, together, we can protect our planet’s life support systems—specifically the interconnected issues of conserving our lands and waters, our climate, and biodiversity.
With thanks to AZA and its members, much progress has been made since then, but there also exist plenty of challenges and opportunities ahead!
As part of The Ocean Project’s mission to catalyze and support collaborative action for conservation, we’ve made 30x30 our top organizational priority, from our collaborative efforts with zoos, aquariums and museums through our World Ocean Day activities, which are also integrated into our work with AZA members.
For more than one year, we’ve been coordinating a 30x30 working group, comprised of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md; New England Aquarium in Boston, Mass.; Philadelphia Zoo in Philadelphia, Pa.; San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance in San Diego, Calif.; Seattle Aquarium in Seattle. Was.; and Frost Science, as well as advisors from AZA, the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, National Ocean Protection Coalition, and a specialist on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This working group has been co-developing tools and resources to help zoos, aquariums, and museums get involved with 30x30 by raising public awareness, documenting public opinion, and informing policymakers.
We’ve also been working closely with AZA, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) to grow collaboration. Together with these associations, we circulated a sign-on letter in support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s plans to pursue the goal of 30x30 as part of the "America the Beautiful" initiative, which aims to protect biodiversity, enhance climate mitigation and resilience, and increase access to nature.
In an unprecedented show of support for conservation, not only did AZA, ASTC, and AAM sign the letter, but approximately 200 zoos, aquariums and museums (thank you to all!) from communities in all 50 states signed on.
The letter of support was then delivered personally by Dan Ashe, president and chief executive officer at AZA, and circulated through other means to leaders in the Administration, including the Department of Interior, Department of Commerce and NOAA, and Department of Agriculture, as well as to the Council of Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President, not to forget national leaders from both parties in Congress.
With additional signatories this spring, we sent the letter anew to the same national leaders on Earth Day, reinforcing the support for 30x30 and the essential role that aquariums, zoos, and museums play in local communities, which is especially important as the discussion shifts to implementation.
As aquariums and zoos continue to evolve their conservation missions, they have a uniquely important opportunity to help advance 30x30. Indeed, national movement leaders have noted the essential role that AZA members can play: Amy Kenney, head of NOPC said, “The zoo, museum, and aquarium community are conservation leaders in the U.S., and their unique and valuable position at the intersection of public education, community engagement and leadership, and scientific research makes them powerful voices in helping to shape the first-ever national conservation goal and advance America the Beautiful.”
Moreover, with the focus in this country now on implementation, Michael Degnan, deputy director, Campaign for Nature said, “Getting this right will require engagement and input from as many constituencies and conservation leaders as possible. The zoo, aquarium, and museum community is in the perfect position to provide the Administration and other national leaders with exactly the type of support, expertise, and guidance needed to ensure that the 30x30 effort is a success in the United States.”
The year ahead will be a critical time for helping to ensure the security of future generations. We look forward to collaborating closely with AZA and its members throughout the year to do even more to protect the health of our blue planet, together.
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