Land Use and Predators

people and predators

Abstract: What do wolves, grizzly bears, and mountain lions all have in common? They are all native to the American West, where they have had a long and difficult relationship with people; and, their activities have been in the news lately. Like all wild animals, these large predators do not know property lines. They roam across public lands and private property in search of food, sometimes settling on domesticated animals like cows or sheep. Recently, for the first time in more than one hundred years, a wolf killed a rancher’s cow in California. This long gap can be attributed to the fact that Californians killed or drove out all wolves in the state by the 1920s. But, due to later laws meant to protect endangered animals, wolf numbers started to grow in other parts of the West, and some have recently settled in California. The challenge over which animals to protect, and how, can be boiled down to the fact that the West encompasses multiple land uses, some of which serve conflicting purposes.

Teaching suggestions:

There are many great EEI lessons to get your students thinking more deeply about how and why we use land and resources now and in the past, and how this influences animals and their habitats.

Lessons such as those listed below help students better understand the economic motives behind land use, as well as the dynamic relationship between people and the environment. These lessons examine the economic benefits gained from agriculture and mining and also include evidence of the impact on the local ecosystems, including animals and their habitats. Students come away with the impression that there is a two-way relationship between people and the Earth, and that changes made to an ecosystem – such as clearing forests for agriculture – have lasting social, environmental, and economic consequences.

1.2.4. People and Places, Lesson 4, “Change Related to Human Activities”

3.1.1.,3.1.2. The Geography of Where We Live, Lesson 3, “Using our Local Region” and Lesson 4, “Changes in Our Local Region”

4.1.3.,4.1.5. Reflections of Where We Live, Lesson 3 “Land Use and Natural Resources”

4.2.6. Cultivating California, Lesson 6, “The End of Hunting and Gathering”

10.3.3. Growth of Population, Cities, and Demands, Lesson 3 “How Modern Cities Influence Natural Systems” and Lesson 4 “Laws and Policies to Manage Natural Resources”

10.4.3. New Imperialism: The Control of India’s and South Africa’s Resources, Lesson 1 “Decisions about Natural Resources”

Eleventh and twelfth-grade lessons such as those listed below give students the opportunity to think about recent history, including the economic calculations that help guide land use. These lessons cover an era in which a scientific understanding of ecosystems helps guide policies regarding land use. Students are encouraged to examine the multiple diverse perspectives that inform environmental policy, understanding that matters of social justice, economic well-being, and ecosystem health all demand attention.

11.11.5. Many Voices, Many Visions: Analyzing Contemporary Environmental Issues, Lesson 4, “Roots of Controversy” and Lesson 5, “Regulations and Rights” and Lesson 6 “The Role of Advocacy in a Democracy”

11.8.6. Postwar Industries and the Emerging Environmental Movement, Lesson 5, “Developing Environmental Concerns”

12.3.1. Government and the Economy: An Environmental Perspective, (Econ) Lesson 2, “Economic Benefits and Costs of Environmental Regulations”

12.2.2,12.2.7. Sustaining Economies and the Earth’s Resources, (Econ) Lesson 3, “The Effects of Market Forces on Natural Systems” and Lesson 4 “One Ocean, Many Mouths” and Lesson 5 “Regulating the Market”

12.1.4. Private Property and Resource Conservation, (Econ) Lesson 4 “Private Property and Conservation”

12.2.2.,12.2.5 This Land is Our Land, (Gov) Lesson 5 “Reconciling when Common Goods Collide”