Five Reasons to be a Champion for National Conservation Lands
Don’t think the battle to save America’s public lands is yours to fight? Read this post and you might think again.
Whether you’re a budding naturalist, amateur angler, experienced hunter or just enjoy seeing photos of America’s beautiful wild landscapes and knowing that they exist, your responsibility for protecting these special places is growing. Why? Because these rivers, elk herds and expansive vistas can’t speak for themselves—they need you to do it.
Beyond National Parks
Of America’s 2.27 billion acres, public lands (land managed by your tax dollars) encompass about 640 million acres. That’s 28% of the country’s total land area. Only 80 million acres fall under the National Park Service, while 250 million acres are managed by the Bureau of Land Management and include America’s newest protected public lands designation, National Conservation Lands.
These Conservation Lands— most of which are in 11 Western states and Alaska—include National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails. They currently comprise less than 15% of land managed by the BLM. Not only are many of these lands at risk right now of being opened to oil and gas development but there are millions more acres worthy of protection.
If you’ve haven’t felt the pull to join the fight for public lands or you’re looking for how to inspire your friends and family to share your passion for them, here are five reasons to heed the call and become a Conservation Lands Champion:
Indigenous heritage and living landscapes: Native American tribes and Alaska Native villages have occupied these lands since time immemorial. From hunting grounds to sacred sites and all the rocks, trees, lizards, and bison between, for Indigenous Peoples these lands are the source of everything from their creation stories to their cultural survival today.
Outdoor recreation: Most outdoor activities are allowed on National Conservation Lands. For those who seek powder, sandstone, singletrack or summits, reasons to defend the snow, high places and open spaces begin with alpine starts and don’t stop till you’ve had your fill. The collective voice of this passionate group of skiers, climbers, bikers and thru-hikers contributes to hundreds of rural economies and the $887 billion outdoor recreation industry. Yes, the bottom line is worth mentioning when it adds up to more than the total of the U.S. oil, gas and pharmaceutical industries combined.
Hunting & fishing access: For sportsmen and women who secure proper permits, paradise awaits on National Conservation Lands. From the Upper Missouri River Breaks in northern Montana to New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte and California’s Trinity River, some of the world’s cleanest water and most important wildlife migration corridors—and thus finest hunting grounds and fishing waters—provide sustenance and protect shared outdoor traditions that span generations.
Wide open spaces and dark skies: In a world that’s getting more crowded every day, National Conservation Lands are an ideal place to find solace and silence or build traditions with friends and family (including the dog!). Fresh air, dark night skies, protected watersheds, and healthy wildlife habitat included, they really do hold something for everyone, so long as users visit with respect.
- For the sake of history(ies): These lands hold the physical remnants of the evolution of the planet as well as the historical events that shaped our country—our real history, for better and for worse. From the trade routes of Spanish explorers, the seemingly impossible emigrant trails of Mormon settlers and others headed West, and pretty much every history in America—even former training grounds that turn military history into something you can touch.
It’s going to take all of us, and your time to act is now:
Beyond big skies and solitude, beyond recreation and memories to last a lifetime, beyond a source of traditional medicine and scientific research opportunities, National Conservation Lands provide hope for the future of this country.
There’s an aggressive and under-the-radar effort now underway by the Department of Interior to close these lands to the public and hand them over to oil and gas companies, and once they move in there's no getting these lands back.
It's going to take all of us stepping up to ensure that they’re protected for generations to come.
Don’t stop at leaving no trace—become a National Conservation Lands champion and join our national movement of community-based advocates. Make your mark by speaking up for the mountains, deserts, animals, trees and rivers that connect us to our humanity, and can't speak for themselves. Sign the pledge today and be a champion of our most treasured public lands..