The bad news is that a new United Nations report says the world's coming to an end.
But, first, some good news: America's doing great!
Seriously, forests are breaking out all over America. New England has more forests since the Civil War. In 1880, New York State was only 25 percent forested. Today it is more than 66 percent. In 1850, Vermont was only 35 percent forested. Now it's 76 percent forested and rising. In the South, more land is covered by forest than at any time in the last century. In 1936 a study found that 80 percent of piedmont Georgia was without trees. Today nearly 70 percent of the state is forested. In the last decade alone, America has added more than 10 million acres of forestland.
There are many reasons for America's arboreal comeback. We no longer use wood as fuel, and we no longer use as much land for farming. Indeed, the amount of land dedicated to farming in the United States has been steadily declining even as the agricultural productivity has increased astronomically. There are also fewer farmers. Only 2.4 percent of America's labor force is dedicated to agriculture, which means that fewer people live near where the food grows.
The literal greening of America has added vast new habitats for animals, many of which were once on the brink of extinction. Across the country, the coyote has rebounded (obviously, this is a mixed blessing, especially for roadrunners). The bald eagle is thriving. In Maine there are more moose than any time in memory. Indeed, throughout New England the populations of critters of all kinds are exploding. In New Jersey, Connecticut and elsewhere, the black bear population is rising sharply. The Great Plains host more buffalo than at any time in more than a century.
And, of course, there's the mountain lion. There are probably now more of them in the continental United States than at any time since European settlement. This is bad news for deer, which are also at historic highs, because the kitties think "they're grrrreat!" In Iowa the big cat was officially wiped out in 1867, but today the state is hysterical about cougar sightings. One of the most annoying tics of the media is always to credit the notion that human-animal encounters are the result of mankind "intruding" on America's dwindling wild places. This is obviously sometimes the case. But it is also sometimes the case that America's burgeoning wild places are intruding on us.
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