blm opens public land coronado national forest santa teresa
BLM Land in Coronado National Forest

Biden’s Outdoor America: How Public Lands Could Change

What policy changes could we see under a Joe Biden presidency? We put his platform under the lens.

Public lands are for the people, for every American and visitor, to enjoy. And the American president plays a crucial role in how we manage those lands, combat climate change, and more.

It’s important to know where your local, state, and national leaders stand. How will access, preservation, and the status of the lands themselves change? After AP called the election on Saturday, we put together a quick guide on what a Biden administration could mean for the outdoors.

The Basics of a Biden Environmental Plan

Firstly, Biden said he believes in climate science and advocates for policies that will help combat climate change. “[Biden and Harris] will make tackling climate change — an existential crisis — an urgent priority,” reads Biden’s campaign page on climate change.

This is in stark contrast to President Trump’s beliefs and policy-making (or undoing). He’s repeatedly declared climate change a “hoax,” and he also withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Accord to combat climate change in 2017.

President Trump also leased a record amount of federal and BLM land this year — the Department of the Interior auctioned off over 100,000 acres of public land across nine states this year alone. Some of the auctioned land (leased to developers for drilling) was in areas immediately next door to national forests and wildlife refuges, which garnered pushback from several conservation organizations.

That being said, Trump did make a huge contribution to public lands recently after signing the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act into law. The act will provide vital funding for public lands.

The Trump administration also expanded hunting and fishing opportunities substantially, and it continued to make good on creating more overall recreation opportunities for all Americans.

Public Lands Under a Biden Presidency: 5 Key Policies

Protect National Monuments

The Biden campaign has said it will reverse Trump’s previous 2017 order to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Escalante national monuments, and also “ban new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters.” Trump’s order was to reduce the protected monument area by 85%. Numerous Native American tribes, brands, and environmental organizations have a federal lawsuit (still pending) against him. Biden’s administration says it will plan to reinstate those areas.

Biden at Grand Canyon National Park
Vice President Joe Biden holds a Recovery Act Event at Hopi Point at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 2010; photo credit: White House Photo Archive/David Lienemann

During his vice presidency, Biden helped expand and establish “protections for more than 550 million acres of federal lands and waters.” He plans to reverse several of the rollbacks that Trump instituted on federal lands during his time in office.

“As Vice President, I helped oversee record job growth and a dramatic reduction in America’s reliance on foreign energy sources … while protecting and bolstering our public lands,” Biden said in a statement on Grand Canyon National Park.

“As President, I will further that work by rebuilding our depleted economy around modern infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future.”

Protect Wildlife Refuge Areas

Biden has stated he will permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by banning drilling.

He also plans to sign an executive order that will conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters on the first day of his administration.

Create a Climate Plan

“Biden’s climate and environmental justice proposal will make a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next ten years,” described the Biden campaign. Biden has also said that he will invest in a “Clean Energy Revolution,” which “will be paid for by reversing the excesses of the Trump tax cuts for corporations … and ending subsidies for fossil fuels.”

Biden’s climate plan goes hand in hand with his public lands policies. Both plans will reallocate resources in use and increase protections for federal lands. When Biden was a U.S. Senator, he introduced one of the first climate change bills in Congress. We can expect to see him enact similar climate protections once in office.

Conserving Public Lands

Biden’s conservation plan includes “mobilizing the next generation of conservation and resilience workers through a Civilian Climate Corps.” Biden stated the initiative will bring in a new group of scientists and land managers. And these managers will be “committed to ecological integrity and natural climate solutions”.

Protect Wetlands and Watersheds

Biden wants to restore wetlands to protect clean water supplies and leverage greater flood protection.

In his first 2 years in office, President Trump reversed protections for more than half of our nation’s wetlands. Biden’s plan involves repairing irrigation systems, protecting wetland ecosystems, and improving wildlife corridors.


Biden’s policies also include funds allocated to building more hiking and biking trails and increasing access to other recreational amenities. This is consistent with presidential administrations of the past, and Trump’s administration is no exception.

You can read Biden’s full policies and plans surrounding public lands here.

Public Lands Legacy: Great American Outdoors Act Signed Into Law
Public Lands Legacy: Great American Outdoors Act Signed Into Law
President Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law that will put nearly $9.5 billion into outdoor recreation and public lands over the next 5 years. The Great American Outdoors Act also permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Read more…

Hunting at dusk
Our Public Lands Are Broke: Is It Time for a 'Backpack Tax'?
We have a perfect solution we don't use and benefactors we don't thank. It may be time for a tax on outdoor gear. Read more…

Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and serves as the leader of Lola Digital Media’s DEI Committee.

She has been writing about hiking, running, climbing, camping, skiing, and more for seven years, and has been on staff at GearJunkie since 2019. Prior to that, Mary wrote for 5280 Magazine in Denver while working as an outdoor instructor teaching climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and mountain biking at Avid4Adventure. Based in Denver, Colorado, Murphy is an avid hiker, runner, backpacker, skier, yogi, and pack-paddleboarder.