A football field worth of natural area in the West is disappearing every two and a half minutes. And every year, the Western United States loses an Los Angeles-sized amount of natural area to development. That’s according to a new study out from the Center for American Progress and Conservation Science Partners. The project, called the Disappearing West, is the first comprehensive analysis of human impacts on lands in the American West.
The project finds that roads, energy infrastructure, agriculture, urban sprawl and other development covered 165,00 square miles of land in 2011.
California lost the most natural area to development, with Colorado close behind, losing 785 and 525 square miles respectively. The analysis found that urban sprawl was responsible for the largest amount of natural area loss in the West—2,343 square miles—followed by energy development, which resulted in the loss of 1,530 square miles. This amount of land loss means a lot of habitat fragmentation. As an example, a bear walking a random path in the American West could not go farther than three and a half miles on average before encountering significant human development.