About the National Conservation Lands

“Put down whatever you’re doing and go visit these lands. It might be a bit of work on your part – there won’t be an entrance gate or a ranger to guide you – but these are fabulous places.”
Bruce Babbitt, Founder of the National Conservation Lands and Conservation Lands Foundation Board member

The National Conservation Lands, established by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt in 2000, comprise 36 million acres of the most ecologically rich and culturally significant of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Owned by all Americans, they are found throughout the West, Alaska and even extend to the East Coast. They are our nation’s newest collection of protected public lands—standing proudly alongside our National Parks, National Forests and National Wildlife Refuges.

The National Conservation Lands include National Monuments and National Conservation Areas, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Scenic and Historic Trails, and they reflect our understanding that truly conserving natural and cultural resources means protecting large areas—entire ecosystems and archaeological communities.

The National Conservation Lands also give people from all walks of life the chance to experience the West as it once was, on their own terms. From fishing the Gold Medal trout waters of Colorado’s Gunnison River to world-class rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon, from hiking the rugged coastline of California’s Lost Coast in the King Range National Conservation Area to whitewater rafting on Oregon’s John Day River—the National Conservation Lands are large, open landscapes, with room to roam. They offer solitude, adventure and renewal—with little to no development, dog-friendly rules and no entry fees.

The lands, rivers and trails within the National Conservation Lands have been designated for protection, but they are also incredibly vulnerable. They face abuse from reckless oil and gas drilling and irresponsible off-road vehicle use. They are subject to looting, senseless vandalism and more. Why is this?

In part, they are grossly underfunded. These lands receive only $65 million a year for their protection and management—a paltry $2.40 per acre, compared to $30.56 per acre spent on National Parks.Threats to these lands also come from some members of Congress, who make repeated attempts to repeal the Antiquities Act—an essential conservation tool if we are to protect our most important landscapes for future generations.

Finally, the Bureau of Land Management’s history earned it a reputation as a commodity-driven agency. Some even called it, disparagingly, the “Bureau of Leasing and Mining.” The Conservation Lands Foundation supports the culture shift that the agency is undergoing, as it embraces conservation as a management priority—and opportunity—on the National Conservation Lands.

By making more people aware of these special places—as stunning as any National Park and as ecologically important as any National Wildlife Refuge—we can help ensure their long-term protection.

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