Immigration and Conservation

Updated: May 11th, 2023, 3:23 pm


  by  Jeremy Beck

A 2019 Senate resolution set a goal for "conserving at least 30 percent of the land and ocean of the United States by 2030." The resolution cited the "rapid loss of natural areas and wildlife in the United States," including:

— 30% decline in birds in the U.S. and Canada since 1970;
— Loss of half of U.S. wetlands; and
— 12,000 animal and plant species at risk of extinction

In 2021, the Biden administration released its "30x30" plan, which would need to conserve 41.5 million acres per year to achieve its goal. It's off to a slow start.

Meanwhile, the United States loses about 1.5 million acres every year (roughly a football field every 30 seconds). Population growth is responsible for most of that loss. With federal immigration policies driving nearly all of projected population growth, Congress and the president have an opportunity every day to stop the destruction of habitats and animals brought about by our own increasing numbers.

Immigration is a sensitive issue. Gus Speth, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says politicians are not willing to connect the dots between immigration policy and conservation, but doing so is necessary in order to forge, in Speth's words, "a constructive approach to immigration."

US Census 1900-2016 Immigration Projections 2017-2060

Start with a simple question. "What is the right size for America?" asks Gary Wockner:

We're living far beyond our means, ecologically speaking.

"Consider the findings of the Global Footprint Network, which measures the amount of natural resources that each country consumes compared with its "biocapacity" — the amount of natural resources available. The 332 million people in the United States use about 2.35 times more natural resources than are available in this country. Stated differently, given current American lifestyles and consumption patterns, the United States could sustainably support only 140 million people."

This isn't just about birds and landscapes. This is about us, and the problems we're going to leave to future generations.

JEREMY BECK is a V.P., Deputy Director for NumbersUSA