Mother Nature might be ticked, because the United States is losing land fast. If you’ve ever visited the glorious Grand Canyon, you already know how vast it is. Imagine what a combined nine Grand Canyons would look like, and you have the equivalent of the amount of natural land the U.S. has lost from 2001-2017. That’s 24 million acres if you do the math.
The reason? According to a recent study conducted by the Center for American Progress, “How Much Nature Should America Keep,” it’s all because of agriculture, energy expansion, an increase in housing build-outs and other human-made developments, making the U.S. more susceptible to climate change.
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The study calculated the country’s land degradation by adding up the impact of all the above factors to come to an assessment.
Bottom-line, the center said that the “U.S. needs to set a goal to protect 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030 to stem the rapid decline of natural areas, which will protect the country from the worst impacts of climate change and wildlife extinction.”
The report also found that presently, 12 percent of the country’s land area has been saved as national parks, wilderness areas and other kinds of protected areas, while 26 percent of the country’s ocean area is protected from drilling for oil and gas.
The report continued, “The United States is entering an era in which it will rely more than ever on the integrity and stability of the natural world to provide economic prosperity, safeguard the health of communities and weather the effects of a changing climate.”
As for the sharpest losses of natural areas, these took place in the southern and Midwestern U.S. as the carbon footprints of cities, farms, streets, power plants and other developments increased from 47 percent and 59 percent of land area, respectively.
To turn things around — and hopefully protect 30 percent of land by 2030 and avoid even more land degradation — the U.S. must increase its current land conservation blueprint at both the federal and local levels.
+ Center for American Progress
Image via Tony Webster