Federal Conservation and Population Policies At Odds
"WILDLIFE IS DISAPPEARING around the world," The New York Times reports. "Humans are taking over too much of the planet, erasing what was there before..."
Habitat corridors across the American landscape are being extinguished. Good faith efforts to save them can only hope to mitigate the loss if the national population continues to increase by some 2-plus million additional residents each year. Federal immigration policy is projected to drive nearly all future population growth. Thus, the fate of these lands, and the life that depends on them, is in the hands of federal policy makers.
FACT: Since 2002, population growth has accounted for more than two-thirds — roughly 12,000 square miles — of the loss of open space in America.
FACT: Federal immigration policies drive population growth.
The New York Times' interactive story reports on the good-faith efforts underway to protect non-human life. The most prominent plan is the "30x30" initiative "to safeguard at least 30 percent of the planet's land and oceans by 2030." We are missing the target. Tragically, some of the most powerful supporters of 30x30 also favor accelerating immigration-driven population growth.
America's population growth has an outsized impact on nature, according to the Times. Given that, we have a greater responsibility to moderate immigration-driven population growth than other nations. The plan to safeguard 30 percent of our land and waters will fail unless we moderate immigration.
Fencing off new parks alone won't solve the problem, warns longtime wilderness guide and advocate Howie Wolke.
"As these nature reserves become more hemmed in by humanity's ever-expanding footprint," they become "WINOs" (Wild In Name Only), as "their ability to protect biodiversity, evolution and natural processes diminishes. If nothing else, ecologists have taught us that species and populations tend toward extinction as habitats shrink and become increasingly isolated."
But you don't need to be an ecologist to know we need a course correction.
Sadly, we do not have to wait to see how the status quo will overwhelm our conservation efforts and lead to the loss of land and life. As Karen Shragg illustrates, the past is prologue:
There are some great laws on the books to protect wildlife. They include, The Migratory Bird Act of 1918, the Wilderness Act of 1964, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the North American Wetland's Act 1989. There are also some iconic species which have been painstakingly saved by tireless wildlife biologists and volunteers who took advantage of the legal requirements to protect wetlands, and endangered species. But overall, these laws are palpably insufficient. Even with great laws in place so many species are becoming what I call, 'legally extinct'."
The naturalist writer Pepper Trail emphasizes that habitat loss is the biggest threat to many species, including grassland birds:
Human constructions from power lines to wind turbines to oil pits increase the dangers of migration for birds. The greatest hazard may seem mundane, but it's ubiquitous: windows. Collisions with windows are estimated to kill a staggering billion birds in this country each year."
The mundane can be deadly when it becomes ubiquitous.
"Recognizing that immigration is part of the demographic equation," Wolke concludes, "simply acknowledges basic mathematics."
JEREMY BECK is a V.P., Deputy Director for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, May 11th 2023 @ 3:23pm EDT