This is what Ansel Adams had to say in a Playboy interview (1983) to the question “What is the most critical fight now (regarding conservation and the environment)?”
“To save the entire environment: wilderness protection, proper use of parks, breakdown of Federal operation of the parks in favor of private interests, acquiring new park and wilderness land, unrestrained oil drilling and mining on land and offshore, etc. First on the list now is that all the wilderness areas must be protected…
Only two and a half percent of the land in this country is protected. Not only are we being fought in trying to extend that two and a half percent to include other important or fragile areas but we are having to fight to protect that small two and a half percent.“
Here is where we stand 25 years later.
The U.S. has 2.3 billion acres of land. 110 million acres have wilderness status, which is the highest form of protection. That’s 4.8 % of the total land mass.
Let’s put that into perspective. Just over 6 % of the total land mass are occupied by humans, meaning urban and rural developments. About 350 million acres are planted for crop, of which only 3 million acres are used to produce all the vegetables in the States. Of those 350 million acres, 80 million acres are used for feeder corn and another 75 million acres of soybeans (95 percent of which are consumed by livestock). These two crops affect more of the land area of the U.S. than all the urbanization, rural residential, highways, railroads, commercial centers, malls, industrial parks and golf courses combined.
Add 788 million acres of pastures and 140 million acres are forested lands that are used for livestock grazing and you can see quickly where our priorities stand.