Every environmental law faces the unrelenting headwinds of immigration-driven population growth.
A recent study from Columbia University's Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology concludes that even with the Endangered Species Act, "most species are not receiving protection until their populations are precariously small."
More than a third of the nation's plants and animals are threatened with extinction, from the monarch butterfly to the Florida panther, which also is disrupting the ecosystems Americans cherish and depend on.
The Recovering America's Wildlife Act (RAWA) would allocate almost $1.3 billion a year for restoring wildlife populations across the country before they're at risk of extinction. Although beneficial for protecting isolated areas and maybe narrow corridors, RAWA (which NumbersUSA takes no position on) will not be capable of preventing widespread habitat loss in the face of America's rapid population growth into the indefinite future. Forests will continue to be cut down, grasslands plowed up, rivers dammed, and monocultures planted — all of which leads to the extirpation or extinction of our country's dwindling array of mammals, birds, fish, insects, and plants.
"If biodiversity conservation was actually a priority," says Rob Harding of the Rewilding Institute, "we'd have something like a Keystone Species Act - investing heavily in maintaining abundant, thriving populations of strategically significant species. That would require preventing too much human sprawl, of course."
Harding points to NumbersUSA's study, "From Sea to Shining Sprawling Sea: Quantifying the Loss of Open Space in America," which states:
Among many threats to wildlife, including pollution, toxics, invasive species, road mortality, overhunting, or poaching, various studies have found habitat loss is the single most critical threat to the preservation of species."
What drives habitat loss? Population growth.
What drives population growth? Congress, via its immigration policies.
Those are hard facts for many of our friends to swallow.
"I know the second I lose my audience when speaking about how to truly protect our country's wildlife," says Dr. Karen Shragg, a lifelong naturalist and educator whose presentation "Legally Extinct," was canceled for including the word "immigration."
"When I say we need to better fund wildlife law enforcement they take out their checkbooks," says Shragg. "But when I say that truly protecting wildlife requires taking a hard look at the issue of overpopulation and the way population growth is undermining the best of these efforts, furrowed brows appear on their newly timid faces."
The problem, according to Shragg, is that facts don't matter when people presume that the solution (moderating immigration) is worse than the problem (declining wildlife). She says we're living the most "ecologically illiterate generations ever" but have a heightened sensitivity to immigration as an unadulterated humanitarian good.
Facts aren't enough for some people, so Shragg complements hers with a moral claim: "It's high time to prioritize those whose lives are diminished when more come in seeking our limited resources." She points to NumbersUSA's book Back of the Hiring Line as a way to tell the story of multiple generations of Black Americans who have been disenfranchised by an immigration system that worked against them.
It just so happens that an immigration policy that stops stealing wealth from Black Americans would also lessen the destruction of habitat that deprives our own ecosystems of the keystone species that keep them (and us) healthy. So tell your well-meaning friends.
A well-managed immigration system will stand up for Americans and wildlife at the same time.
JEREMY BECK is a V.P., Deputy Director for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, May 11th 2023 @ 3:23pm EDT