Working lands are the future of conservation
From the earliest indigenous peoples to later European arrivals, those who settled in the American West naturally staked out the best pieces of country they could find. They didn’t settle on the high mountain tops or extreme deserts, places we’ve since designated as wilderness. Instead they etched out homes and communities along waterways and fertile valley bottoms, places that were the most habitable for both people and wildlife.
Where grizzlies once roamed, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco sit now. The remainder, consisting primarily of farms and ranches, are the last best pieces of intact, fertile, habitable open land. They are the cornerstones of both human communities and the ecosystems we all depend on. And they are disappearing.
This is why, in coming decades, conservation will inevitably focus on working lands. Distinct from wilderness, working lands are commonly understood to be those lands tended by human hands.