President Donald Trump is now responsible for the biggest reduction in protected lands in U.S. history, according to a study released this week, Rolling Stone reports.
The study, published in the journal Science, is titled “The Uncertain Future of Protected Lands and Waters,” and is based on a review of 200 years of data about changes in the protected status of lands in the United States. The study notes that, in 2017, Trump completed two of the largest reductions in federal land protections in history. The first was the shrinking of Bears Ears by 85 percent. The second was reducing the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument by 51 percent. In the same year, Congress also voted to permit oil and natural gas development inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The result of the elimination of such protections, the study concludes, is that the lands are essentially opened up to oil and natural gas companies. And even as the 2017 changes continue to be fought in court, the administration has indicated plans to downgrade or otherwise remove protections from nine more national monuments.
“[These lands] play such an important role in mitigating climate change, in serving as a protective habitat for animals and birds,” said Rachel Golden Kroner, the lead author on the study, in an interview with CNN. Kroner also pointed out that biodiversity overall is in trouble on Earth and that it’s important for humanity to do something about it.
The study was orchestrated by 21 scientists who studied the 200 years of available data. They determined that such vast reductions of federal lands, as has been seen under the Trump administration, is a recent phenomenon. In fact, overall, 90 percent of U.S. federal land reductions have been implemented since the year 2000.
The phenomenon is not limited to the United States.
As part of a troubling global trend, 78 percent of global land reductions have taken place since 2000. The study additionally found that lands in the Amazon are quickly losing protections as well, with significant implications when it comes to climate change and conservation in general.
The authors of the study point out that seeing such dramatic changes in the United States and Brazil are of particular concern, as each nation is known as a global leader when it comes to conservation. As a result, decisions by the American and Brazilian governments could very well influence others around the world to do the same.
“As human pressures on the biosphere accelerate, it is critical to strengthen — not roll back — conservation efforts,” the study concludes.