As a mother and a public lands policy director, I’ve found our #earthdayfromhome celebration particularly poignant. Like many of us making adjustments to our daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m also looking ahead to what better days can look like and how I can contribute to making them a reality.
I’m trained to analyze facts and help develop policy solutions that help protect and expand America’s National Conservation Lands. Knowing that healthy public lands support the ecosystems that protect human health has given my focus added perspective and urgency.
Several recent reports by the Center for American Progress have brought a sobering clarity to just how important protecting our remaining public lands is to improve our collective health and quality of life:
- Habitat fragmentation and changes in the populations of different species can throw ecosystems off balance—eroding the built-in checks and balances that reduce and regulate the risk of disease—and cost future generations undiscovered medical breakthroughs in vanishing biodiversity.
- The rise in wildlife-borne diseases - from COVID-19 to HIV-AIDS, Ebola and SARS - has occurred alongside increasing human encroachment on nature and a rapidly changing climate.
- In the U.S. alone, we lose a football field worth of open space every 30 seconds.
- Loss of natural areas translates into fewer spaces for people to enjoy the great outdoors. Many studies have shown the direct connection between time spent in nature and healthy populations—both mentally and physically. In the face of global health crises, access to nearby parks and open space is critical for all communities.
The Center has also mapped steps that the U.S. can take now to stem the tide. Conservation Lands Foundation has been collaborating with Center for American Progress and others to identify how we can turn these steps into actionable policies.
One of the key solutions is to protecting nature’s benefits by conserving habitat and biodiversity, and by setting a national goal of protecting at least 30% of U.S. lands by 2030. Public land plays an important role in the climate system and provide the basis for human livelihoods, food supply, freshwater and many other ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity.
Current and future National Conservation Lands offer the largest opportunity for protecting the large landscapes across the West and the Western Arctic that will be needed not just to give us clean air, clean water, healthy food supplies and places to get outside – but as a first line of defense against diseases like #COVID19.
It was heartwarming to watch all of the #earthdayfromhome pictures come in this week and see how differently each of us experiences and appreciates our home planet.
I suspect that we’re each understanding in a new way that to save ourselves, we must save nature.