Nature Needs Half: A Necessary and Hopeful New Agenda for Protected Areas (US version)

By: Harvey Locke, originally published through The George Wright Society © 2014 Americans celebrated a milestone in global conservation this year: the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. For many, wilderness designated under it has become the gold standard of nature protection in the US. While few protected areas in the world can match designated wilderness in a US national park for ensuring nature’s well-being, it is well to remember important cousins in the protected areas family. National and state parks, state wilderness areas, designated roadless areas in national forests, the national monuments in the Bureau of Land Management’s national landscape conservation system, US Fish and Wildlife Service’s national wildlife refuge system, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) marine protected areas, tribal wilderness, and private lands set aside explicitly for nature conservation are all part of the nature protection clan. While more wilderness is devoutly to be wished in this celebratory year, wilderness alone will not be sufficient to save nature in all its glorious expressions. It is therefore timely to consider how much of all kinds of protected areas we need to ensure that nature and natural processes continue into the future. In a world where humans are just one species interacting among many, we would not need protected areas. This was the case for most of human history. Now we need them, for it is well- settled scientifically that humanity’s relationship with the natural world is in trouble. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007) stated bluntly: “The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate...

Nature Needs Half: A Necessary and Hopeful New Agenda for Protected Areas

Originally published in the Nature New South Wales Journal Article by: Harvey Locke, Founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, writer and photographer Conservation targets should be based on what is necessary to protect nature in all its expressions. When, in 1988, the Brundtland report called for tripling the world’s protected area estate (which was then at 3 to 4 per cent of the land area) there was a strong belief that sustainable development would ensure the proper care for nature on the rest of the unprotected earth. This has proven wrong. We therefore must materially shift our protected areas target to protect at least half of the world, land and water, in an interconnected way to conform with what conservation biologists have learned about the needs of nature. Instead we have set goals that are politically determined, with arbitrary percentages that rest on an unarticulated hope that such non-scientific goals are a good first step towards some undefined better future outcome. This has been a destructive form of self-censorship. It is time for conservationists to reset the debate based on scientific findings and assert nature’s needs fearlessly.  Boreal forest wilderness. McQuesten River valley, central Yukon Territory, Canada It is well settled scientifically that humanity’s relationship with the natural world is in trouble. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Parry et al, 2007) stated bluntly: “The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution, overexploitation of resources)”. The human species has become so dominant that some argue we have entered a new geological age dominated not by the chemical and physical workings of the earth as they...

Nature Needs Half in the Earth Island Journal

Originally published in the Earth Island Journal by William H. Funk Conservation group promoting an ambitious new proposal for wilderness protection During the last half century conservationists around the world have won some impressive victories to protect wild places. Here in the US, the Wilderness Act preserves some 110 million acres of public land. Private holdings by groups like The Nature Conservancy safeguard tens of millions of additional acres. The idea of protecting ecosystems from industrial development has spread around the world. There’s the Mavuradonha Wilderness in Zimbabwe, the El Carmen ecosystem in northern Mexico, Kissama National Park in Angola, and the Tasmanian Wilderness in Australia, to name just a few stunning parks and preserves; UNESCO’s world heritage list includes 197 sites of special beauty and/or biodiversity. Photo by Trey Ratcliff Nature Needs Half has set out an unbelievable challenge: to formally, legally set aside one half of Earth’s land and water as interconnected natural areas. But conservation biologists now recognize that these sanctuaries are limited in what they can accomplish precisely because they are special — which is to say, rare. Parks and preserves are all too often islands of biological integrity in a sea of human development. To really protect natural systems, healthy biomes need to be the rule, not the exception. To achieve that vision, The WILD Foundation, a multinational NGO based in Boulder, Colorado, is pushing a bold concept called “Nature Needs Half.” In a world in which even the wealthiest governments routinely abdicate their responsibilities toward future generations and the environment, Nature Needs Half has set out an unbelievable challenge: to formally, legally set aside one half of Earth’s land...

Go WILD…For a Change

Article originally published in Sanctuary Asia magazine, February 2013, by Vance G. Martin, president of The WILD Foundation “Our climate is on steroids” is the catchy metaphor used by Dr. Gerald Meehl of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. One of those rare scientists with a flair for communication, Dr. Meehl makes a good comparison when he likens greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to steroids in the body of a champion athlete. Steroids alone do not create the champion competitor – rather, they create an enhanced environment in which other factors such as training, diet, and attitude are better able to combine to cause the effect. Similarly, while greenhouse gases in the atmosphere do lead to a rise in temperature, they also, more importantly, create an enhanced situation in which other existing phenomena such as weather patterns like La Nina/El Nino, jet stream fluctuations, etc., can interact in varied and more extreme ways to create what is called climate change.   While this metaphor is apt, it only describes the condition we face, not the cause of it. In response, you might say that the cause of climate change is the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That is the physical cause, yes, but of course there is something deeper that we need to address, i.e., the human activities that fuel the release of these greenhouse gases, which in turn hasten climate change. Actions such as political awareness, legislation and policy are important, but they still only address the symptoms. If we want to cure the condition, we need to address its cause. To get to the root of this situation (and subsequently create a more effective solution), let’s shift our metaphor to one of illness and cure. The human race is addicted to growth, greed, and...
Boreal Birds Need Half: Maintaining North America’s Bird Nursery and Why It Matters

Boreal Birds Need Half: Maintaining North America’s Bird Nursery and Why It Matters

  The North American Boreal Forest has been dubbed “North America’s Bird Nursery” due to its impressive role in supporting migratory birds. The statistics are astonishing:   –  Between 1-3 billion birds representing more than 300 species flock to the boreal each spring to find summer nesting habitat. –  Once the young have hatched, 3-5 billion birds migrate back south toward their winter habitat—many as close as the U.S. and some as far south as the Tierra del Fuego. –  More than 1 billion of these birds become common wintering birds that can be found throughout the U.S. This new scientific report takes a closer look at this amazing relationship and what we can do to preserve the hundreds of species that intimately rely on this vast, mostly-intact forest. To provide birds the best fighting chance of surviving the duel threats of habitat loss and climate change, at least half of the boreal forest should be protected from industrial development. This continues the ever-growing research concluding that larger, interconnected protected areas are necessary in order to maintain our planet’s amazing collection of biodiversity.   Please visit the Boreal Songbird Initiative website for photos, maps, other supporting graphics, and more information. >> And you can read the full report here: Report: Boreal Birds Need Half: Maintaining North America’s Bird Nursery and Why It Matters    Featured cover image: © Morgan...

Two Yukon First Nations and Two Yukon Environmental Organizations launch Legal Action against Yukon Government to protect Peel River Watershed

  Press Release: Two Yukon First Nations and Two Yukon Environmental Organizations launch Legal Action against Yukon Government to protect Peel River Watershed  January 27, 2014 Introduction:  Vancouver, BC – Today in Vancouver Thomas R. Berger, O.C., Q.C. announced that a lawsuit is being filed against the Yukon Government on behalf of two Yukon First Nations and two Yukon environmental organizations. Berger and his clients, the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon Chapter (CPAWS Yukon) and the Yukon Conservation Society are launching a legal action to force the Yukon Government to implement a Land Use Plan that would protect 54,000 square kilometres of wilderness in northern Yukon’s Peel River Watershed, against mining and other industrial development. >> Read the full press release: Peel Watershed Media Release Jan 27 2014        ...
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