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Key Concepts

The E.O. sets a goal of having at least 30 percent of all lands in New Mexico conserved by 2030, with an additional 20 percent designated as climate stabilization areas. However, the E.O. does not define these terms for the purposes of counting whether specific lands in the state are considered conserved or protected. This section provides context on conservation terminology from recent literature that will be discussed by the Committee in the coming months. These are in no way final definitions and are included here as a starting point for discussion before ultimately submitting recommendations to the Governor.

Conserved Lands

The concept of conservation has a long history in America; it can mean different things to different people. Generally, it refers to protecting natural values by limiting other uses. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines a protected area as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.”

The reference to protecting lands through “other effective means” has received increasing attention in recent years as awareness has increased that legal protections are not the only means of conserving resource values. The IUCN defines other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) as “a conservation designation for areas that are achieving the effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity outside of protected areas.”

Climate Stabilization Areas

Dinerstein et. al (2020)1 first suggested the term “Climate Stabilization Areas” (CSAs) to describe intact and semi-intact lands that store a relatively large amount of carbon. A global mapping exercise compared target conservation areas (designed to conserve unprotected biodiversity by 2030) with a previously published map of below- and above-ground carbon stocks. When climate stabilization objectives could not be met by conservation actions alone, researchers designated CSAs based on the second map to fill the gap.

In contrast to definitions of conserved or protected lands, this definition of CSAs includes no reference to restrictions on uses or long-term preservation of specific values. Rather, it simply recognizes where carbon exists on the land, regardless of protection, ownership, or management status. The need to understand land-based carbon stocks is paramount in combating climate change. Programs that support this information benefit both landowners and the broader public because they facilitate access to carbon markets and other programs intended to align management activities with climate goals.