“We have done much to mend the damage we’ve done to nature but have much more work to do. We need to rewild whole landscapes, boldly creating connected habitat for species that need room to roam, such as grizzly bears, wolverines, and even bison. Healthy lands rich in biodiversity will be far more resilient to climate change.” - Cristina Eisenberg - Earthwatch Chief Scientist, ecologist and author
Are we doing enough to protect our Lands and Wildlife?
In our current climate where our Government is slashing regulations and there is a strong effort to be able to sell off and exploit our Public Lands, what can we do or do we need to worry?
In the USA we have about 134,000,000 acres somewhat protected in National Parks, this is about 14% of the land in the USA. The US Forest Service has another 193,000,000 acres and in total the Federal Government owns about 2.27 billion acres.
Boy, that sounds like a ton of land doesn't it?
However there is a problem, a significant portion of that land is not left to be wild with the animals left unmolested. 788 million acres are grazing lands, we have mines and logging regions scattered across our Public Lands, we even have hunting in some National Parks.
The farthest point in the USA from a road is only about 30 miles, now that I find scary and that brings us to the the point of this posting. Even though on paper we have a decent amount of land for wildlife, in reality this is not the case. Too much of our lands set aside for wildlife is “fractured”, animals have to brave developments, highways and unprotected spaces to migrate in the search for forage and to find genetic diversity.
E.O. Wilson has famously stated that to actually protect our wildlife and lands we need to protect 50% of ALL our lands and waters WORLDWIDE and this isn't just protecting a big chunk in one location and bulldozing the rest, no, its protecting multiple connected lands so that we provide migration corridors and protect bio-diversity. Just protecting a desert wont help animals that don’t live there, just as just protecting the Rocky Mountains wouldn't do much to protect animals in Death Valley.
Scientists have put forth that we currently are in the midst of the 6th Great Extinction with the current rate of extinction being at least 100x greater than “normal” and some holding forth that its closer to 1000x greater than normal.
I, for one, tend to pay attention to scientists and pay attention with my own eyes to what is going on, not just in the USA but throughout the world. Take Lions and other big cats in Africa, in the last 70 years Lions have crashed from over 450,000 to hardly 20,000. Large tracts of wildlands all over the world have been broken up to provide farmland and living areas for us, while pushing animals into constantly constricting and scattered holdings to survive and when the animals try to move from their region through ours to get to another region, they are killed by us.
Here in the US our Game Management Agencies have for years, up until recently, viewed predators as expendable and a nuisance to our game management model, a model that sadly seems to be based upon a Game Farm mentality, wherein we want as much hunt-able wildlife as possible, even if this means over population of the animals and a detachment from actual nature in the management style.
If we ever would manage to protect even a 30% portion of the US for wildlife, it would require a massive undertaking starting with EDUCATION, in fact all the below issues are educationally based.
Education: Too many people lack even a basic understanding of biology and about how interconnect we, our lands and so forth truly are. On top of that they fail to recognize that so many of our problems, both with protecting our lands and protecting ourselves are rooted with inequality and population.
Rethinking Private Property Rights: Very often people who own their land do not act in a responsible way towards the wildlife they share it with, the feeling of “its mine and I can do what I want” is understandable, however I, and many others feel that owning land is a privilege and the owners have a responsibility to balance their desires with that of the animals one shares the land with.
Rethinking States Rights: You see States constantly wanting to do what they want without over consideration of how their actions impact the next State over. The feeling that the State “owns” its wildlife and its lands and it doesn't matter what another State is doing or wants is a fact that needs to be changed. Our lands and our wildlife belong to ALL of us, it doesn't matter if you are in a different county, state or country we are all responsible.
Convincing people that its better to think of the future instead of the “now”: For generations we have fallen for the trap of doing what we feel we should do for jobs, growth and so forth using either the thought that “any problem can be fixed later”, or just not caring what the future holds since we will be dead by then. Im sure you all have heard the line “ what are we leaving for our children”, and simply put, that is a pretty lame line. We should be caring what we leave for the people living here in 200 years, not simply a couple decades from now.
We (the people who care and want to make a difference) all need to do a better job than we currently do. We all too often fall into the “preaching to the choir” area, where we just talk to like minded folks instead of reaching out and educating the masses, to put it mildly, we NEED the masses. It would be great if we could just march forth and do what needs to be done on our own, however that isn't reality, and in today’s climate of anti-education, anti-intellect, pro-destruction and pro-”think’about’only’me’me’me’me’me” we need to do everything we can to force changes for the better.
There are so many wide ranging issues that have to be faced and dealt with and we are running out of time to make a real difference. Can you image in 100 years not having a wild Grizzly in the lower 48? Can you image that the only Lions to be found in the world are in a zoo? The future as it stand right now can go two ways, unfortunately doing the right thing is much harder than passing the buck to the next generation.
In future postings I will address issues like Highway Over/Under-passes for wildlife, I will bring forth things like the Yukon To Yukon Conservation Initiative and other issues that I feel are key to undoing the damage we have done, along with securing a better future for our lands, wildlife and us.
Below I’ve included a couple write-ups that pertain to the issue.
Max Waugh - www.maxwaugh.com
“My first instinct is to say "no" in regards to the general question about protecting our wildlife and habitat. And in the U.S., at least, we're already seeing a new government taking steps to lessen protection for not only wildlife, but surrounding lands and the communities that neighbor them. In regards to the issue of fractured habitat, one wonders if it's too late to truly mend wildlife migration corridors and extended habitats, given the proliferation of human settlement and development worldwide, but it's not stopping people from trying. There are small successes, such as the wildlife overpasses first constructed in Europe and now being considered here (for mountain lions and other wildlife in California, for example), that have been proven to be effective in preventing road kill incidents. On a larger scale, there are proposals to create much more expansive protection areas overseas, such as a region in central Asia that would span a number of countries and create a "tiger corridor." In South Africa, the owners of Samara Private Game Reserve have a long term goal of buying up the surrounding private ranch land in order to span the gap between two huge neighboring national parks. They've bought as many as eleven properties already, I believe, but still have a lot of work to do. If they ever succeed, it would finally create a proper connected territory for the vulnerable mountain zebra--which only exists in small pockets in southern Africa--and other threatened species in the region. So are we doing enough? Probably not locally, and we're likely to regress domestically over the next four years. But it's not too late to even make small improvements (like the overpasses), in order to ease a little pressure on our wildlife and create a better way to coexist.”
"Aside from Yellowstone grizzly bear research, I've spent a good part of my time as an undergraduate looking at various issues pressing the environment and humanity. The largest issue for our generation, and those to follow, is anthropogenic climate change. This includes but is not limited to increased carbon dioxide, ocean acidification, glacial melt, deforestation, etc.
Due to increasing urbanization and industrialization in our country, small areas of protected public lands, like National Parks, are becoming even smaller. Buffer zones like national forests surrounding these areas are being timbered, sold off, developed, mineral rights sold for mining etc. Oil and natural gas operations involving fracking or the creation of additional and unneeded pipelines pose direct threat to the inhabitants of these ecosystems. A lot of the issues surrounding issues with wildlife, our lands and environment lies at the root principle of coexistence, and politics.
Unfortunately, not everyone is a scientist, biologist, geologist or chemist, it's important for those that are knowledgeable about what is going on with our environment, lands and wildlife, to be vigilant and help others understand and process what is happening. Not everyone sees the beauty in nature and wildlife, and not everyone understands the science involved; the web of interconnectedness that lies within ecosystems, and how that relates to us, humans. The two most essential compounds for human existence lie in water and air. Without water and air, human existence would be impossible. It's both critical and essential that both of those elements in human nature be preserved, or risk the consequences, the most severe being a mass exodus, or extinction.
The work of nature and it's cycles, are responsible for the natural purification of both water and air on earth. We pay nothing for these natural systems. Yet, when ecosystems are directly impaired in their abilities to perform these tasks, it directly impacts those inhabitants who call it home, and those who rely on its functions.
Currently less than 20% of the worlds key biodiversity areas are completely covered by protected areas. Current deregulation of decade old legislation that once protected our lands, waters and wildlife have become a growing threat. The possibility and potential of our public lands, national parks, being sold off, to be privatized, is a reality.
If we do not remain vigilant, and stand up in the face of adversity, to protect our lands and wildlife for years to come, before we know it, there will be nothing left to protect."
So to conclude what I wrote: are we doing enough to protect our lands and wildlife? There is no simple answer. In some respect, yes, our park system, and department of interior are very successful in preserving and protecting our lands and wildlife. However, that accounts for only a mere fraction of the overall picture.