Expanding The National Conservation Lands
The National Conservation Lands make up only ten percent of all lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and are far from realizing their conservation potential.
There are a number of amazing places that deserve to be recognized and have the protections of being part of the National Conservation Lands. From Colorado’s Browns Canyon, with its granite cliffs stretching along the Arkansas River, New Mexico’s stunning Organ Mountains and diverse desert terrain to Utah’s Cedar Mesa, with its rich concentration of archeological sites, the Conservation Lands Foundation is working with local communities and partners to safeguard our country’s most treasured traditions.
That’s how we all help leave a lasting mark on the future. In addition to protecting important wildlife habitat and cultural resources, protecting our public lands can have a positive impact on the economic health of local businesses and surrounding communities. We are working with local communities to have these areas protected either by Congress or by the President using his authority under the Antiquities Act.
Here are some of the areas and organizations we’re working with to protect the best remaining places managed by the BLM. Many other great campaigns are happening across western communities to protect important areas. These are the local people working to protect these important remnants of our heritage.
Bodie Hills, California
Two and a half hours south of Reno on California’s East Side of the Sierra, the roughly 200,000 acres managed by the BLM in the Bodie Hills represent a major conservation opportunity. In recent years, the threat of a new open pit gold mine in the heart of the Bodie Hills has galvanized local support and interest in a campaign for permanent protection. With the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership (BCHP—The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, and Friends of the Inyo and CLF), we’re working towards a legislated national monument that will protect this critical habitat linkage between the Sierra Nevada Range and the Great Basin. Opportunities for heritage tourism to benefit the region are significant, with the centerpiece the heavily visited Bodie State Historic Park.
Browns Canyon, Colorado
Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River is an incredible area that provides outstanding fish and wildlife habitat, sweeping views of the Arkansas Valley as well as four-season recreation opportunities for people to explore the outdoors and experience the area’s scenery and solitude. Elevations at Browns Canyon range from 10,000 to 7,300 feet, making this a unique mid-elevation area of public land. As the elevation increases, the pinon juniper trees that dominate the arid lands along the river give way to Douglas fir, Ponderosa pine and large stands of aspen. A group of citizens from Chaffee and surrounding counties have formed Friends of Browns Canyon, and they are leading the charge for permanent protection, with legislation recently introduced by Senator Mark Udall.
California Desert, California
Mandated by the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009 and in sync with California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and renewable energy mitigation needs, the BLM is spearheading a multi-agency, science-based effort to identify additions to the National Conservation Lands. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is a visionary effort involving dozens of stakeholders that holds the promise of adding millions of acres of important habitat to the National Conservation Lands.
Cascade Siskyou National Monument, California/Oregon
Soda Mountain Wilderness Council is leading an effort to designate additional lands in California to Oregon’s Cascade Siskyou National Monument. The most ecologically significant portion of the region was left undesignated in the 2000 proclamation by then-President Bill Clinton, and advocates say now is the time to protect the whole ecosystem.
Cedar Mesa Region, Utah
In southeastern Utah’s San Juan County, the Cedar Mesa region is anchored by Grand Gulch and the serpentine canyons of Fish and Owl Creeks. The most valuable cultural and archeological sites left on BLM managed land without full protection, the region is the Navajo homeland and is laced with ancient and Mormon pioneer history. To find out more about the region and efforts to protect it, go to Friends of Cedar Mesa and Utah Dine Bikeyah.
Deschutes Canyon Area, Oregon
Central Oregon’s confluence of Whychus Creek and the Deschutes River provides a lifeblood for threatened and endangered fish, bobcats, elk, mule deer and golden eagles. Citizens from Central Oregon have been working to protect a roughly 18,000 acre proposed wilderness centered around Steelhead Falls WSA. For more information about the area and prospects for the campaign, contact Friends and Neighbors of Deschutes Canyon Area and the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
Dolores River Basin, Colorado
For years, local advocates in southwestern Colorado have been painstakingly working through complicated issues of river flow, water rights, dam releases, aquatic and terrestrial habitat quality and endangered species to advance permanent protection for the river and associated wildlands. For more information, contact San Juan Citizen’s Alliance and Dolores River Boating Advocates.
Gold Butte, Nevada
About 2.5 hours northeast of Las Vegas sits the 350,000-acre Gold Butte region. Sandwiched between Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the west and south and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument to the east, the region is a largely unprotected area loaded with geological, archeological and wildlife values. For more information on the decade-long effort to protect the region, check out Friends of Gold Butte and Friends of Nevada Wilderness.
Grapevine Mesa Joshua Tree Forest, Arizona
About an hour north of Kingman, Arizona and directly adjacent to the community of Meadview, the 44,000 acre Grapevine Mesa Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) has recognized the area for its dense, massive Joshua tree forests. Yet, the ACEC provides only “paper” protection. Concerned citizens from Meadview have formed Friends of the Joshua Tree Forest to advocate for its permanent protection as a national monument.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, New Mexico
Outside of the city of Las Cruces, NM, the half a million acres of the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument cover a range of lands with enormous historical, ecological and cultural value. Supported by a wide coalition of local supporters, including the city of Las Cruces and New Mexico’s Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, the proposal is a centerpiece of the region’s attempts to create tourism jobs and revenue through diversification. For more information vist the Organ Mountains and Friends of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
Stornetta Public Lands, California
This 1100 acre slice of public land 3 hours up the coast from San Francisco is recognized for its natural and scenic values. Home to the Point Arena Mountain Beaver, wetlands and wildlife, this coastal point of access could become the first land-based addition to the California Coastal National Monument. Residents of the area have worked with successive Congresses to introduce legislation that would transfer Stornetta Public Lands into the and heighten the area’s attraction as a tourism draw. Recently Congressman Jared Huffman announced his intent to introduce legislation to accomplish this, and advocates are willing to petition the White House to use the Antiquities Act if Congressional gridlock continues. For more information, go to Mendocino Land Trust.