While rates of reforestation may be outpacing deforestation thanks to successful conservation efforts, the loss of open space in the United States provides a less optimistic view of the future. Still, an average of over 3,843 km2 (949,750 acres) of forest was lost per year between 1990 and 2010. Urban sprawl and other human factors are currently converting over 24 km2 (6,000 acres) of open space each day for human use. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “Expanding urban and suburban areas often result in a loss of forests, grasslands, and other natural areas. This loss is significant, as open spaces provide many benefits and ecosystem services.”
This kind of loss is a direct threat to animals, biodiversity, and ecosystems as a whole. The loss or disruption of forests, grasslands, wetlands, or other fragile ecosystems leaves animals little to no time to adapt, and therefore dooms them to rapid eradication due to a variety of factors including the introduction of invasive species, or a lack of food.
To play a part in combating this, and to help protect lands of particular significance to both Americans and our Native populations, President Obama has issued an executive order to protect 6,677 km2 (1.65 million acres) of land from development.
The president stated:
Today, I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes.
The land in Utah encompasses 5,463 km2 (1.35 million acres) around Bears Ears Buttes, and in Nevada, 1,214 km2 (300,000 acres) around Gold Butte in Nevada.
The move helps cement President Obama’s legacy as a conservationist. According to the BBC, his legacy even beats the legacy of the president who established the United States Forest Service, Teddy Roosevelt.