Today is Earth Day, an annual event that celebrates the natural world and encourages individuals to live more sustainably. Finding innovative ways to protect Earth’s precious natural resources for future generations is important. But this Earth Day, let’s also celebrate the environmental progress that has been made over the last decade in the land conservation sector.
To start, individuals, families and partnerships of like-minded individuals have increasingly recognized the value of land conservation. In fact, between 2005 and 2015, Americans voluntarily conserved more than 20 million acres of land. These efforts help preserve scenic open spaces, protect wildlife habitat and improve water quality. They also return between $4 and $10 for every dollar invested to local communities, money that can then be spent to support local industries and provide recreational opportunities.
Moreover, in December 2018, Congress contributed to the momentum by signing the 2018 Farm Bill into law. Combining its various programs, the Farm Bill is the single largest source of funding for conservation on private lands, creating land protection opportunities across the United States. For example, by funding the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, the Farm Bill helps to permanently protect agricultural lands and wetlands from development. The bill also funds the Healthy Forest Reserve, which protects forest land.
Congress also made steps forward in early 2019 by passing a sweeping lands package that permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Since its creation in 1954, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has conserved more than 5 million acres and supported more than 41,000 state and local park projects.
Each of these three examples show that conservation, whether by the private sector or the government, is necessary and important. The United States’ population currently stands around 327 million people and continues to grow. This population grow has resulted in around 6,000 acres a day currently being lost to development. It is virtually impossible to return developed lands to their natural states, making conservation efforts all the more crucial.
This Earth Day, let’s remember all the good work that has already been done to advance conservation. Let’s also continue to seek out additional conservation opportunities to protect the environment for generations to come. With a mission this important, we need all the tools at our disposal to ensure green spaces are protected for generations to come.