Conservation Land Designation

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages over 250 million acres of land in the U.S., mostly in the western deserts. BLM's "multiple use" mandate means that much of that land is open to grazing, mining, drilling, energy development, off-road vehicle use, and intensive uses.
Conservation Lands are managed separately within BLM for their conservation and recreation goals instead of for more damaging uses. The designation gives the lands permanent protection, provides a set of priorities for BLM to use in managing those lands, and raises the visibility of those lands within BLM. By directing BLM to manage these lands in collaboration with the community, a Conservation Lands designation ensures that the future management of these lands is driven by community goals and not the whims of agency administrators.
BLM lands can be designated as Conservation Lands by congressional action - creating a national conservation area (NCA) - or by presidential action, creating a national monument. 
Watmough Bay

About America's National Conservation Lands

From the Conservation Lands Foundation:

"The National Conservation Lands (formally the National Landscape Conservation System) is the nation’s newest, permanently protected collection of public lands - 28 million acres of nationally significant landscapes set aside for current and future generations because of their outstanding cultural, ecological and scientific importance. The National Conservation Lands consist of the last places where you can experience the history of the American West. From the rivers which Lewis and Clark explored, to pioneer trails, to Native American sites, the heritage and beauty of these places are safeguarded for all to see.
First established by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt in 2000 and made permanent by an act of Congress in 2009, the National Conservation Lands join the existing National Park System and National Wildlife Refuge System as another way Americans can preserve and enjoy their history and their land. It reflects our new understanding that truly conserving natural and cultural values means protecting large landscapes – entire ecosystems and archaeological districts – more than small, isolated tracts surrounded by development. And it encourages the increasingly rare opportunity for Americans to escape crowds and create their own outdoor adventures in the wild beauty of the West, as well as providing unique resources for study to scientists and students of all ages."

National Monuments

From the Bureau of Land Management:

"The Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System includes 17 national monuments in eight western states. These national monuments encompass landscapes of tremendous beauty and diversity, ranging from rugged California coastline to vividly-hued desert canyons.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the President authority to designate national monuments in order to protect “objects of historic or scientific interest.” While most national monuments are established by the President, Congress has also occasionally established national monuments protecting natural or historic features. Since 1906, the President and Congress have created more than 100 national monuments. National monuments are currently managed by agencies including the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, or BLM."

National Conservation Areas

From the Bureau of Land Management:

"National conservation areas (NCAs) and similarly designated lands are designated by Congress to conserve, protect, enhance, and manage public lands for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System includes 16 NCAs and five similarly designated lands in ten states. These lands feature exceptional scientific, cultural, ecological, historical, and recreational values. They differ tremendously in landscape and size, varying from the coastal beauty of California's 18-acre Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area to the rugged desert vistas of Nevada's 1.2 million acre Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails NCA."  

Policies for BLM's National Conservation Lands
In July of 2012, the BLM released its Policy Manuals for the National Conservation Lands. The two manuals, covering National Landscape Conservation System Management and National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, and Similar Designations will guide BLM staff in managing these precious lands. These policies follow BLM's strategy for Conservation Lands, which emphasizes honoring the intent of the protection and engaging with the local community. 
Key points covered in the policies:
  • All management plans and activities must be consistent with the legislation or proclamation that protected the lands.
  • BLM should fully utilize science, local knowledge, partnerships and volunteers in conserving, protecting, restoring and interpreting the local cultural and natural heritage.
  • BLM will engage local communities and organizations to support local quality of life and economic goals.


Videos about National Conservation Lands 

National Conservation Lands


A Geography of Hope



Coverage in Parade Magazine

Parade Magazine's April 17, 2011 cover story focused on America's Conservation Lands. You can read the article or see a slideshow on the Parade web site.


Photos: Indian Island and Watmough Bay by Shann Weston