Arusha, Tanzania, March 8 – The conservation world was alarmed by a recent directive from the president of Tanzania to open up protected areas to human settlement. The decision will  affect many smaller forest and wildlife reserves spread across the country, the Serengeti Watch advocacy reported.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism had planned to evict illegal settlers from several protected areas. But the president overruled him, ordering “leaders in the ministries concerned to identify conservancies and forest reserves that have no wildlife so that the same are given to landless pastoralists and farmers.” In addition, he lifted the ban on farming within 200 feet of waterways, a restriction that gave protection from runoff and human-wildlife conflict.

This illustrates an ongoing dynamic — a high population growth that is relentlessly increasing demand for farm and grazing land. If settlers can move into protected areas with no consequences, the trend will continue until all protected areas are gone. Read more on this.

By contrast, the U.S. Congress recently passed a massive public lands bill adding 1.3 million acres of new wilderness and withdrawing lands from mining activities. Included is a big victory for Yellowstone National Park, where gold mining has been banned.