Before we had an Endangered Species Act, or indeed a conservation movement, farmers, ranchers and other private landowners were the ones caring for the land and managing habitat for wild life. And we need to keep these working families on the land they’ve stewarded for generations.
|A farm field at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Photo by USFWS|
That is why I was so glad to talk with the folks at the American Farm Bureau Federation last week.
I am deeply concerned about the world’s growing population and how more land, water and resources for people mean less for wild life.
We also know that almost 75 percent of the land in this country is privately owned, and many of the species we care for depend on private land for a significant part of their habitat.
So we must help working families protect and sustain wild life in ways that enable them to continue making a living from the land.
This is not easy.
Conservation is about restraint. If we want wild life in certain areas, we have to make a conscious decision to make a space for them in the landscape.
That means sacrifice because we have less land available for other purposes.
But it does not mean completely giving up the economic benefits of the land.
The agricultural community increasingly embraces practices like rotational grazing, no-till farming and other techniques that save energy, improve soil conditions, conserve water and improve land productivity.
Just look at the success in ensuring the future of the dunes sagebrush lizard. Using conservation agreements, private landowners protected 88 percent of the lizard’s habitat in the Permian Basin. And oil and gas production continues to occur across most of the basin.
Or consider rancher David Spicer’s work to bring together environmental groups, mining interests, ranchers, Nevada business owners and others to conserve the Amargosa toad.
Their efforts were so beneficial that the Amargosa toad, like the dunes sagebrush lizard, no longer needs to be considered for federal protection.
When we find creative solutions with private partners to help wild life before it’s faced with extinction, everyone wins. And I am looking forward to finding these kind of answers with the Farm Bureau.