Sunday, June 29, 2008
Comparative Demography, Geography & Ecology
England, Scotland, and Wales have a combined population of 60 million and could fit inside the state of Idaho, which has a population of less than 1.5 million. To see a quick animation showing the relative speed of population growth in Britain, click here.
America has two great advantages over England and most of Europe: more land and relatively fewer people.
Most Europeans cannot really fathom the size of the U.S., anymore than most Americans can fathom the size of Africa (which is nine times larger than the U.S.)
A few simple comparisons: The USA is more than 66 times bigger than England, and 38 times bigger than all of the UK.
For a direct comparison, all of the UK is smaller than Oregon, while England is smaller than Florida. Virginia (where I live) is the 37th smallest state (out of 50) and is 40,0769 sq. miles compared to England at 53,356 sq. miles.
While the U.K. is not large, it is more crowded, on average, than the U.S. The population of the U.K. is now over 60 million (including Northern Ireland), while the population of Oregon (which is the same size) is just over 3.5 million.
Virginia has a population of just over 7.5 million people. Even if scaled up to the size of the UK, it would have population of no more than 16 million, or about one-fourth the current population density of the UK.
One of the reasons America has so much wildlife is that we have not gut-shot all of our land with housing developments -- even if it does seem that way as you roll down the highway past strip-mall after strip mall.
The bad news is that according to the U.S. Census Bureau's middle range projections (which have been too low for 50 years!), the U.S. will add 125 million people to its population over the course of the next 50 years.
To put this number into perspective, this is a population larger than the current population of the United States west of the Mississippi River today -- or a population twice as large as all of the UK. More than 80% of this future U.S. population growth will be due to immigration.
On the map, above, all of the land that is colored is federally-owned (click here to see enlarged map). Almost all of this land is entirely empty, and often for a very good reason -- not too much water.
The light green land represents National Forest land -- hunting and fishing is permitted and generally encouraged, though it is regulated (at least in theory) so that wildlife values are preserved for future generations.
The yellow areas are land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (largely desert, scrub, and sub-standard grazing land). Here too hunting and fishing is permitted and generally encouraged.
The dark green lands are National Park lands. There is no hunting in our National Parks, but there is some regulated fishing.
The orange-colored lands are National Wildlife Refuges. Despite the name they are used for hunting; in fact they are mostly used for hunting, thanks to a tax on guns, ammunition and camping gear that is directed towards maintaining and expanding the National Wildlife Refuge system.
The grey-colored lands are owned by the Department of Defense, and hunting is allowed on much of this land.
Added to the above tally are a very large number of state parks, state Wildlife Management Areas, lands owned by timber companies (95% of our timber is grown on private land), and private farm lands (over 35 million acres of which are now in the Conservation Reserve Program to benefit wildlife). Despite the large amount of federal and state land in the U.S., more than 75 percent of all deer are shot on private property, and most terrier work is done on private farms as well.
Despite all of the federal wild lands out West, most terrier work is done in the East and mid-West, due to the absence of groundhogs in the West and a very very short denning season for fox. In addition, where coyotes are common, red fox numbers tend to be thin on the ground.
Western raccoons are large, but are more commonly found in barns, outbuildings and brush piles than in dirt dens. The American badger is a daily migrant and provides rare sport as a consequence, while the opossum is rarely large or fierce.