Our Story

Photo: Eagletail Mountains Wilderness, Arizona

Some of the most visionary conservationists of the 20th century created the Conservation Lands Foundation. The organization was formed in response to the escalating threats to valuable and vulnerable public landscapes, cultural resources and rivers managed by the Bureau of Land Management – the federal agency responsible for the largest amount of public lands in the United States.

Protecting ecosystems and culture

In 2000, then Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt recognized that public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management held the remaining wild, ecologically sensitive, and culturally rich lands in the American West. He established what is now known as National Conservation Lands as a means to protect them for future generations.

National Conservation Lands sign

What are National Conservation Lands?

These essential landscapes are among the most spectacular natural, cultural and archaeological places in the country.

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Like National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges, the National Conservation Lands were designed to unify protection of the country’s outstanding public lands and enhance public appreciation of them.

National Conservation Lands also reflect today’s understanding that truly conserving natural and cultural values means protecting large, intact landscapes—entire ecosystems and archaeological districts—not merely small isolated tracts of public lands surrounded by development.

The remoteness of these natural and cultural resources protected them for thousands of years. Now, however, more than 64 million Americans – more than 1 in 6 – live within 100 miles of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

A network of community advocates

Bruce held the fundamental premise and organizing principle that meaningful stewardship and enduring protections within National Conservation Lands can only be achieved when there is broad local support for sound conservation decisions. This strategy has been instrumental in keeping the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service aligned with their conservation missions.

In 2007, Bruce joined forces with distinguished environmental lawyer and advocate Ed Norton, Sr. to establish the Conservation Lands Foundation with the mission to create a network of organized advocates – working both locally and nationally – to ensure the protection, stewardship, and expansion of National Conservation Lands. A key objective was to rebalance the historic emphasis the agency has given to development on the lands it manages.

For this reason, the Conservation Lands Foundation focuses on sustaining and creating community-led organizations whose shared love of public lands brings together non-traditional voices in the rural and urban West.

Our Mission

To protect, restore, and expand the National Conservation Lands through education, advocacy and partnerships.

Photo: Mojave Trails National Monument, California

We’re the only national organization dedicated to building capacity among community leaders and groups committed to the valuable and vulnerable public landscapes administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

We support these groups where they already exist, help start new organizations where they are needed and provide the training, resources, and coordination necessary to unify and amplify the voices of these local advocates to become a powerful and lasting force for the preservation of National Conservation Lands.

“We created this organization because we know enduring protection of nature requires people who care.”

— Ed Norton, Founding Chair, Conservation Lands Foundation

Our work today

Since 2007, the Conservation Lands Foundation has added its sophisticated national strategy to this local grassroots power to permanently protect 10 million acres of iconic lands as National Conservation Lands and grow our Friends Grassroots Network from 10 local organizations to 80 – along with the local constituencies they represent – throughout the West.

Today, National Conservation Lands comprise 35 million acres of public lands, including 28 National Monuments, 25 National Conservation Areas, 21 million acres of Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, 2,700 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and 6,000 miles of Scenic and Historic Trails.

This represents only 15 percent of the approximately 250 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management and we’re committed to strengthening our network of community advocates, working alongside Tribal nations, and evolving our strategies to best protect and conserve more of these essential public lands that all of us depend on.

Check out some of our latest success stories