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US has lost 24 million acres of natural land in 16 years: study

New York

THE United States has lost the equivalent of nine Grand Canyon national parks, or 24 million acres (9712455.41 hectares) of natural area, between 2001 and 2017 due to agriculture, energy development, housing sprawl and other human factors, making the country more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The study by progressive think tank Center for American Progress titled How Much Nature Should America Keep said the US needs to set a goal to protect 30 per cent of land and oceans by 2030 to stem the rapid decline of natural areas, which will protect the country from the worst impacts of climate change and wildlife extinction. The report attempted to calculate the rate of loss of natural lands by assessing the impact of oil and gas extraction, road construction, housing sprawl, agriculture and other human activities.

Currently, 12 per cent of US land area has been conserved as national parks, wilderness areas, and other types of protected areas while 26 per cent of US ocean territory is safeguarded from extractive activities like oil and gas drilling, the report said.

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"The United States is entering an era in which it will rely more than ever on the integrity and stability of the natural world to provide economic prosperity, safeguard the health of communities, and weather the effects of a changing climate," the report said.

To achieve a goal of protecting 30 per cent of land by 2030, the US would need to beef up existing land conservation policies at both the federal and local level, the report said. REUTERS