How much nature does the planet need?

Poster Child: Morgan Heim’s photos will illustrate the WILD Foundation’s new program. Photo: Morgan Heim.

The conservation community has been cautious in putting a number on how much of the planet’s wild lands need to be preserved. That’s due in part to scientific uncertainty (it’s difficult to gauge how much of an ecosystem must be protected to ensure its viability) and part to political reality (activists have been careful to provide estimates that policy makers would find politically acceptable enough to act upon).

But that was then. Responding to new data that says nature needs at least half of the planet’s land and water to sustain the health, function and diversity of all life, Boulder-based WILD Foundation has launched a new initiative, named appropriately Nature Needs Half.

The program has partnered with nearly 25 of the world’s leading conservation organizations, groups such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Wildlife Trust in India. The goal is to immediately protect at least half of the planet’s remaining large, mostly intact natural ecosystems including the Boreal Forests, the Amazon Basin and Antarctica, as well as to quickly conserve surviving remnants in fragmented areas of high biological importance, UN designated Biodiversity Hotspots, Key Biodiversity Areas and the Alliance for Zero Extinction sites. Nature Needs Half also kicked off a case study on the city of Boulder, an international model for conservation that claims 67 percent of its land as protected. This may not settle well with libertarians, however—in 1967, Boulder became the first municipality in the US to charge tax for open space.

“We’re hoping the project will help others apply Nature Needs Half to their communities and also serve as inspiration,” says Emily Loose, director of communications at the WILD Foundation.

Local photojournalist Morgan Heim has been busy at work on the project and will present a sneak preview of her photos at the Boulder REI on April 6th. Learn more at natureneedshalf.org.