As with each of our seasons here at This American Land, our episodes in Season 7 were chock full of great stories on conservation from around the country. Reflecting back, I have to admit a little bias since I worked with bats for more than two decades. Our story on bat habitat conservation in Pennsylvania (Episode 703) reminded me of a few things that people should know about these misunderstood creatures. First – while the story didn’t emphasize the importance of bats to our ecosystems, their vital roles cannot be overstated. There are more than 1,400 species of bats that make up one quarter of the world’s mammals, so they are key to biodiversity. They eat almost everything, it seems – from insects and fruit, to nectar and blood, and provide vital services to our environment. Bats control insect populations, including some devastating crop pests, serve as important pollinators and seed dispersers of many species of plants, and even vampire bats that feed on blood are important to humans. The anticoagulant in their saliva that helps them when feeding – literally keeping the blood flowing from their chosen animal to feed upon – has been used to develop anti-clotting medications used by humans! A key message in this story was how to conserve bat habitat with a combination of active management practices and protection measures like cave gating and a land easement.
The other key point this story highlighted was the importance of private landowners and conservation programs like the Healthy Forest Reserve Program that incentivizes them to do good things for wildlife. More than 60% of the U.S. land base is privately owned, and we simply could not meet our nation’s goals for conservation without the help from private landowners. Aldo Leopold reminds us of this very fact when he said that “conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” This story is but one of many examples we share with you each season on how private landowners contribute to conservation and the public interest.
The importance of water to our natural world, our nation’s economy, and our own lives werehighlighted in several stories this season. With a changing climate and increased demand from a growing human population, water conservation is more important now than ever before. My trip to the Gunnison Basin (Episode 701), farming practices that yield cleaner water (Episode 704)and restoring water on the Gila Reservation in Arizona (Episode 705) demonstrate why water is so vital to our livelihoods. And rafting through the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (Episode 704) just shows how much fun being on the water can be!