Book Review: The Future of Conservation in America

My friend Lisa Smith, executive director of the Natural Areas Association convinced me to buy this book, The Future of Conservation in America: A Chart for Rough Water, at the NAA table at the Pennsylvania Botany Symposium. The authors, Jonathan Jarvis and Gary Machlis, delivered the closing plenary based on this book at the 2018 NAA Conference (I had to unfortunately miss it due to the Northeast Natural Heritage meeting scheduled at the same time). Unfortunately, this sat on the back of my couch for far too long before getting a chance to read it over the holiday break.

In short, this is a great short book. The authors, with decades of experience in the conservation field, are well qualified to cover this topic. They skillfully weave the core contributions of land protection and conservation science with the social, economic, and political facets of conservation. Speaking of politics, this book doesn’t shy away from the politics that affect land and water protection. As I write this, the federal government is in day seven of a shutdown over funding for Trump’s ecologically destructive (and frankly ridiculous) border wall. The authors don’t fail to recall that the previous long government shutdown was ended in part of by access to our national parks:

… the sixteen-day federal government shutdown in 2013 became an exercise in political theater, diversion of administrative effort, and economic disruption. The public outcry over the closure of parks ultimately forced the hand of Congress but reaffirmed the strong position that public lands have in American society.
(page 27)

They make the case that conservation in the future may be impeded by the lack of public support for science, especially as it relates to climate change.

Additionally, I was pleased to see a small shout-out to NatureServe and its Network of Natural Heritage Programs:

“Nonprofit organizations like The Nature Conservancy or NatureServe maintain their own research staffs…”
(page 74)

Natural Heritage data has a role in almost every natural area conservation decision in the US, and its unfortunately frequently unappreciated as part of the process. It’s good to see it referenced here.

This book is a great short read and has an inspiring message to an issue that seems dark at times. Highly recommended.

This book is available directly through the publisher or probably can be ordered through your favorite bookseller.

ps. A video of Machlis and Jarvis’ talk at the NAA meeting can be found here. Check it out after you read the book, or before, or even if you don’t read this book.