America lost 17,800 square miles of open space to development between 2002 and 2017, according to a study released today by NumbersUSA. That’s equivalent to an area the size of Maryland and Connecticut combined.
“Our nation is losing open space at an alarming rate,” said Leon Kolankiewicz, an environmental planner and co-author of the study. “Our analysis — which includes searchable county-level data — shows that every state has lost rural land this century.”
The study — From Sea to
Shining Sprawling Sea: Quantifying the Loss of Open Space in America — uses U.S. Department of Agriculture data from every state excluding Alaska to detail how much land has been converted from forests and fields into strip malls, subdivisions, and other development.
The very first question of the study showed that 79 percent overall believed that the destruction of farmland and natural habitat because of urban sprawl in the United States was a “major problem” (44 percent) or “somewhat of a problem” (35 percent).
The study also identifies what drove that development on a county-by-county basis. The number-one contributor to the disappearance of open space was population growth.
In an effort to keep agriculture land in the hands of farmers and ranchers, American Farmland Trust has spent their time working to create a conservation agriculture movement. Their efforts have resulted in the permanent protection of over 6.5 million acres of agricultural land.
“Our leaders at the local, state, and federal level will have to make hard choices in the years ahead,” Kolankiewicz said. “We can stay on our current track — and continue to lose the equivalent of 17 Washington, D.C.’s worth of open space every year. Or we can recognize that our growing population is causing the loss of open space — and do something about it.”