Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York set out to find the places on the planet that are the least disturbed by humankind. Using satellite photos and other data, the two groups created what they call the human footprint on the Earth.
“Analysis of the human footprint map indicates that 83 percent of the land’s surface is influenced by one or more of the following factors: human population density greater than 1 person per square kilometer, within 15 km of a road or major river, occupied by urban or agricultural land uses, within 2 km of a settlement or a railway, and/or producing enough light to be visible regularly to a satellite at night,” according to a statement from the WCS.
While allowing for the pollution that has landed on everything in the world, the groups concluded that 17 percent of the Earth is still untouched.
The New York Times asked for examples within the United States, and Nevada led the list: Jarbidge Wilderness, Nevada, Idaho and Oregon; Central Idaho Wilderness; Endless Mountains and Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania; and the Texas Grasslands.
The Jarbidge area is described as having a history of damage as a result of mining and heavy grazing, but that both have declined as mining areas have been restricted and so the area is recovering. Its isolation is its best friend.
The Times reported, “Of the lower 48 states, Nevada is the least imprinted by humans overall.”