Photographs by Stephen Wilkes
Text by Emma Marris
In a warming climate, we need to radically rethink how we conserve nature. Parks and refuges aren't enough to preserve America's environment. Land, water, and wildlife need to be protected everywhere.
There is no single way to do conservation. Restoring ecosystems, fighting climate change, regulating hunting and fishing, eliminating pollution, helping trees beat deadly diseases, moving plants and animals to cooler habitats, and killing introduced predators—all can play a role.
Conservation itself is broadly popular, but agreeing on the specifics of what will count toward conserving 30 percent by 2030 is sure to be contentious. Allowing working lands and waters and city parks to be counted is likely to upset some conservationists. But any plan to designate almost a third of the country as strictly protected is also almost certain to alarm those who see thoughtful use as compatible with conservation—a group that includes many farmers, ranchers, fishers, hunters, and members of tribal nations eager to continue or resume traditional practices.
Monuments and parks are not enough. To safeguard all our species, all our ecosystems—and to make sure that they have the resources and space to adapt as the climate continues to warm—we need to do conservation everywhere. On private timberland. On farms. In cities.