Christy Shaw's picture


  by  Christy Shaw

Immigration-driven population growth and its secondary pressure on state to state migration is leading to further development over habitat and further endangering already
beleaguered wildlife.

Loss of wildlife habitat is accelerating and now spreading well beyond the more widely reported coastal or dense urban areas. Since the year 2000, when NumbersUSA began conducting its sprawl studies, the United States has lost 20,000 square miles of natural habitat and farmland to development. This rapid pace of land development has pushed many species of wildlife to the brink of endangerment and some to extinction.

NumbersUSA's most recent National Sprawl Study findings reveal that between 1982 and 2017:

68,000 square miles (44,175,300 acres) of open space, natural habitats, and farmland in the United States were converted into "Developed Land," including housing, shopping malls, streets, schools, government buildings, utility infrastructure, waste treatment facilities, parking lots, vacation homes, resorts, highways, and places of work, worship, and entertainment. An area larger than Florida, our 22nd largest state, was "paved over" in just 35 years."

The paradox of celebrating population growth's initial economic and social positives begins to have diminishing returns to both people and wildlife without reasonable limits set for that growth; specifically, reasonable limits on the primary driver of that growth: immigration.

Somewhat understandably (to a point), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently lauded the economic benefits of population growth to the Sunshine State, particularly, if not ironically, from people fleeing the overpopulated states of California and New York and various other densely populated urban areas around the country.

But before we pop the cork that all that growth is good, the rapid rate of adding over 200,000 new people to Florida in just one year will undoubtedly thwart attempts that even Governor DeSantis has made himself to save habitat and biodiversity if population numbers continue to rise unsustainably.

Of course, Florida is not alone.

In just 35 years, (1982-2017) the most urban sprawl occurred from developing, or further developing, over open space in 5 states: Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and California.

Findings from studies conducted by the international union estimate that the decline of monarchs in North America has dropped from 22% to 72% in the last 10 years. The listing of this magnificent species of insect as endangered runs parallel with the spread of high human population numbers driving development or other uses of the Monarch's habitat for human food and other consumption needs such as farming and raising livestock.

Monarchs depend on specific species of milkweed to propagate. This puts the butterfly's plant needs in close competition with human demands for land use and development to either build more housing and other infrastructure, or to grow food and raise livestock. Some species of milkweed are considered toxic to livestock and are therefore targeted for eradication by farmers and ranchers who use pesticides to destroy them. (Texas has the most farms and livestock ranches using a total of over 127 million acres of land for these purposes) milkweed is eradicated from pesticide use in addition to development that paves over and bulldozes the land.

Immigration and the 30 x 30 conservation goals of the Biden administration are in direct conflict with one another, providing little optimism that these bold conservation goals can be achieved to save many species and and habitat already gravely threatened:

From the national study:

Many of the same politicians and groups who are idealistically calling for protecting 30 percent of the United States land area from development by 2030, ... are at the same time pushing for "immigration reform" that would add nearly 40 million residents and resource consumers to the U.S. population over the coming decade. This would boost our numbers from about 330 million at present to nearly 370 million."

All of these new arrivals will need housing that inevitably leads to more sprawl:

"One of the primary concerns about urban sprawl has been that it is replacing our nation's forests, wetlands, and prime farmland with subdivisions, new and expanded roads, strip malls, and business parks. As the NRCS put it in the 2007 NRI summary report, reviewing the 1982- 2007 quarter-century:"

"'The net change of rural land into developed land has averaged 1.6 million acres per year over the last 25 years, resulting in reduced agricultural land, rangeland, and forest land. Loss of prime farmland, which may consist of agricultural land or forest land, is of particular concern due to its potential effect on crop production and wildlife.'

"Within the biomes and landscapes threatened by sprawl are found some of our most critical natural habitats. According to the World Wildlife Fund, habitat loss poses the single greatest threat to endangered species around the world. The United States is home to approximately 1,660 species and subspecies of plants and animals formally listed as federally endangered or threatened by the federal government (specifically, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service). Most of these are seriously harmed by ever-expanding sprawl and ever-encroaching development of one form or another that modifies, degrades, or eliminates the habitats they need to survive."

Just as people are dependent on their connection to the land, water and overall biodiversity from the natural environment for survival, so too is wildlife. Decreasing immigration is not a catch-all solution. But it can go a long way to achieving a more sustainable balance in sharing the remaining open spaces and habitat so wildlife also has room to thrive.

CHRISTY SHAW is the Member Services Manager for NumbersUSA

Updated: Tue, Sep 27th 2022 @ 1:59pm EDT

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