July 29, 2020
America contains acres upon acres of undeveloped, privately held land. Nothing has been built on this land, and no one is farming it or living on it. Its owners might have set it aside as an investment, or for future ventures, or just in case.
But a recent paper in Scientific Reports suggests another effective use for all these acres: leave them alone, in order to help protect some of the country’s rarest animals.
The United States is home to 160 species of endangered mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. “Just like every person needs a home, all of these species need a home,” says John P. Draper, a PhD candidate at Utah State University and an author of the new paper. This need is often best met by a protected area, which can offer respite from hunting, habitat destruction, and other human activities. Other studies have suggested that for a species to persist in the wild, 30% of its range has to be protected (a rule of thumb that of course varies depending on the species and context).