Report: Housing boom near US PAs impedes conservation

The rising number of houses built near national parks, forests and wilderness areas may severely limit the conservation values those properties were set aside to protect, a federal study has found.

Examining detailed housing growth data from the last 70 years and projections for the next two decades, researchers found that housing development in the United States may sharply restrict the ability of protected areas to function as a modern Noah's ark and safeguard biodiversity.

Protected areas are crucial because they provide safe havens for species threatened by land-use change and resulting habitat loss, the researchers said. But the areas are only effective when they protect habitat within their boundaries and are connected via corridors to other wild areas.

New homes near protected areas have created a patchwork quilt of land use that has shrunk the impact of public lands, the study shows. Housing development blocks travel corridors for some animals and alters habitat for others.

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(ed note: this is a NYT version of an earlier Parkwire-linked story)