Agriculture, urbanization and wildlife?

November 02, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

This is another road side sign near the American Prairie Reserve, near Sun Prairie, Montana, USA. The point is a good one I think. We do need to feed people and taking land out of agricultural production reduces the amount of food produced. As such the message appears to recognize the problem of an ever growing human population and limited natural resources, including land (space), to produce a sufficient amount of food for all these people. It identifies urbanization as a major threat to the ability to produce enough food. I think this is correct as it is very costly and thus nearly impossible to remove houses after they have been built and return the land to agricultural production. The practice of having single family houses sit on large lots or "ranchettes"  is especially damaging as they take up a large amount of space and thus take out a large amount of land that may otherwise produce agricultural products. Since this sign is situated near the American Prairie Reserve and nowhere near an urban or suburban area, I am left with the impression though that the concern is not just with urbanization. Even though the sign does not mention switching out cattle for bison, the immediate effect can be similar to urbanization; the land may no longer produce agricultural products. There is a fundamental difference though between bison or buffalo grazing grasslands previously grazed by cattle and turning grasslands grazed by cattle into urban or suburban areas. Just like livestock, bison can be eaten by people, and this is something that could happen in this area too after the herd has reached a certain size. Secondly, even if more or different food is needed (different from bison) it is relatively easy, at least physically, to replace bison with cattle. So, even though the point made on the sign is a good one, the location of this message is somewhat puzzling. Nonetheless, it is a good thing that the illusion of endless natural resources, including space, is perhaps ending in the American West. The sooner we realize that space is a limited and relatively scarce commodity, the more likely it is that we will start using it more wisely.

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Road sign near American Prairie Reserve, agricultural production, near Sun Prairie, Montana, USARoad sign near American Prairie Reserve, agricultural production, near Sun Prairie, Montana, USA

 


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