Center for American Progress

RELEASE and PRESS CALL/WEBINAR: Groundbreaking Analysis Maps Rapid Loss of Natural Area in the American West
Press Release

RELEASE and PRESS CALL/WEBINAR: Groundbreaking Analysis Maps Rapid Loss of Natural Area in the American West

CAP and CSP will host a press call and webinar on the interactive map project and its findings at 1:30 P.M. ET.

Washington, D.C. — In a first-of-its-kind analysis of human impacts on lands in the American West, the Center for American Progress and the nonprofit scientific collective Conservation Science Partners, or CSP, have found that the region lost an average of one football field worth of natural area to development every 2.5 minutes between 2001 and 2011.

Released today, the Disappearing West project—a partnership between the CAP and CSP—found that roads, energy infrastructure, agricultural and timber operations, urban sprawl, and other development in the West covered nearly 165,000 square miles of land in 2011; that is an area roughly the size of 6 million superstore parking lots.

“This study provides the clearest picture yet of how quickly the West’s open spaces are disappearing and the extent to which wildlife habitats are being fragmented,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, Senior Fellow and Director of Public Lands at CAP. “The uncomfortable reality is that only a small fraction of Western lands and waters are permanently protected for future generations, and those that are not are disappearing at a staggering rate.”

An interactive map launched today enables visitors to investigate patterns of natural area loss across the West at the local, county, and state levels and to explore the impacts of urban sprawl, energy development, transportation infrastructure, and agriculture and timber. The new CAP website——includes figures, tables, downloadable data, and videos that explore the loss of natural area in the West and its effect on the region’s communities, wildlife, and way of life.

“We have developed comprehensive measures of the loss of natural areas in the West due to human activities on both public and private lands, which is unprecedented in scope and detail,” said David M. Theobald, senior scientist at CSP. “Knowing the cause of those changes is vital to informing actions to address them.”

Theobald was part of a team of seven scientists at CSP who analyzed nearly three dozen datasets; 11 types of human activities; and more than a decade of satellite imagery to measure the extent of human modification of lands in the West. The group found that urban sprawl was responsible for the largest amount of natural area loss in the West between 2001 and 2011—or 2,343 square miles—followed by energy development, which resulted in the loss of 1,530 square miles of natural area.

According to a CAP review of data from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Protected Areas Database, only 12 percent of lands in these 11 western states is permanently protected and managed primarily to preserve their natural character. The United States has committed to a national goal of protecting 17 percent of all lands by 2020.

Press call/webinar:

Matt Lee-Ashley, Senior Fellow and Director of Public Lands, Center for American Progress
David M. Theobald, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Conservation Science Partners
Brett G. Dickson, PhD, Chief Scientist, Conservation Science Partners
Luke J. Zachmann, MSc, Senior Scientist, Conservation Science Partners

Tuesday, May 17 at 1:30 P.M. ET

Webinar login:
Webinar link
Meeting ID: w3004392
Entry code: A300439

Call information:
Number: 888.455.2260
Conference ID: 3004392

To explore the Disappearing West website, click here.
To explore the interactive map, click here.
To read the study’s methodology, click here.
For state-specific summaries of the findings click on the desired state —Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141 or Maureen Ryan (CSP) at 360.685.3640.